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October 24, 2016

Transparency, accountability enabled by automation

A MANUAL CHALLENGE

“The Office of the Premier is the central point of contact for provincial government. From an IT perspective, it is our task to supply networking infrastructure to the other departments, as well as provide platforms where these departments can host their services in our datacentre, and to implement and roll out solutions on request,” explains Cyril Gabriel, Director: eGovernance at the Office of the Premier, North West Provincial Government.

The biggest challenge lay in the fact that processes – especially back office processes – were manually-driven.

“One of the key things we looked at automating was submissions. From start to end, the idea was to reduce turnaround time between preparing a submission, and that submission landing at the Director-General’s office,” Gabriel recalls.

Previously, the submissions process took one to two weeks, and there would be a host of people that would need to sign off on those documents.

Automating the process was an obvious way to reduce turnaround time and get submissions before the Executive Council more quickly.

AUTOMATION IS THE ANSWER

The Office of the Premier currently uses three Boxfusion solutions, namely eSubmissions, eLeave and the Director-General Task Referral System.

Given that the Director-General is responsible for the administration of the process, she engages not only with her own department but with all the other provinces as well. Tasks come from the Executive Council, and it’s the Director-General’s responsibility to direct these tasks to the relevant government departments and keep track of them.

By automating these processes, accountability and efficiency could be drastically improved.

ENTHUSIASTIC ADOPTION

The implementation process began in late 2014.

Gabriel notes: “It was a quick two or three months, as a pilot in one section of the Office of the Premier while we began vigorous training with other units.

“During the pilot, we realised we needed additional infrastructure, and it took us longer to get the infrastructure itself than it did to implement the Boxfusion solutions.”

The results were almost immediate.

SPEEDY RETURNS

The back office automation turned out to be the biggest blessing.

“We were so used to the manual processes and the extended turnaround time. What used to take seven days, is now done in less than one, with workflow processes now happening in the background.

“These aren’t just benefits we’re noticing in the IT department, it’s across the board. HR has noticed the benefits of automated leave processes and the fact that they can keep track of tasks in the DG’s office is a significant benefit,” Gabriel says.

“Although we haven’t fully implemented the eSubmissions solution across the department, we’ve already appreciated how it interfaces with the financial system. So if I want to request something to purchase, the solution shows me what budget I have available, which is essential in preventing overspend.”

Done manually, requesting feedback on a submission from a head of department was a lengthy, paper-based process. Feedback would then need to be collated before it could be manually turned into a report.

Now it’s automated.

All reports on any task, as well as attachments, can be included on the eSubmissions system, “which is a major benefit for support staff in the DG’s office, as they now have a real time overview of the progress of all tasks.”

This means increased transparency and improved accountability, which can only translate into more informed decision-making.

ESUBMISSIONS:

  • Submissions can be digitally composed and routed to speed up decision-making
  • View submissions progress at all times
  • Enforce financial controls for procurement submissions

DG TASK REFERRAL SYSTEM:

  • Manages each external inquiry as an electronic case with dashboard tracking
  • Automates acknowledgement letters and emails, assignment and tracking of referrals
  • Enables officials to feed back, attach supporting documents and draft response letters

ELEAVE:

  • Online applications and approvals for leave
  • Minimises AG queries from uncaptured or post-facto leave applications
  • Gives visibility of available leave credit