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Using electronic records and information management can improve the ease and efficiency of updating, accessing, and securing roads department files. Photo: FileVision

In this digital age, PW managers are constantly pushed to deliver higher levels of service while increasing productivity and efficiency through use of new technology. With this demand comes the challenge to prioritize technology software and hardware purchases. By following simple guidelines, managers can attain quality and efficiency without hurting the bottom line.

Time Is An Asset

Technology solutions that improve productivity ultimately decrease costs by reducing the time it takes employees to service the needs of the public.

Whether it's looking up information in a paper file for a public inquiry, or dropping everything to respond to an emergency flood system's warning, PW departments should look at time itself as expense. By implementing technology solutions that decrease the time it takes to accomplish a task, departments decrease the costly expense of labor time.

Like many mid-sized organizations, PW departments are increasing their reliance on technology, including the use of applications beyond the traditional office solutions. As they increase the number and types of applications within their information technology infrastructure, they are more susceptible to unforeseen expenses such as upgrades, customization, and integration costs.

While the initial expense of software may impact only one section of an organization, if that product requires access to data stored in other applications across the organization, custom configuration and integration requirements will increase the cost of implementing the solution. Failing to fully integrate the software, however, makes it impossible for your department to realize the program's full benefits.

Putting Technology To Work

Before you order that high-tech item, you need to look at the systems you're already working with and how the new purchase stands to change your operation. By addressing how technology will affect established processes, departments are forced to consider how a new solution will integrate with systems already in place. For example, if you buy new scanning hardware to turn all of your paper documents into electronic records, you need to determine ahead of time how the information will be integrated, organized, accessed, and stored with other forms of data (i.e. e-mail, accounting software, spreadsheets, and databases).

If your scanning plans do not involve at the onset a process to efficiently locate and securely store the information, unnecessary expenses will naturally crop up. This could mean costly information technology consulting services to address the issue, or additional software that extends the implementation time and interrupts the department's productivity of the department. Avoid the “surprise” expenses by always connecting technology purchases back to how they will integrate with current applications and enhance—not disrupt or entirely replace—processes already in place.