Paperless Is The Right Destination. The Problem Is, Not Everyone’s Travelling There The Best Way

Have you been following the row around the DVLA and the abolition of paper counterparts? If you haven’t, there’s a good summary of events here. In summary, as a consequence of the loss of the paper part of your driving licence, there seem to be quite a few unforeseen results that are causing some red faces in Swansea.

Basically, all motorists will require a special code that needs to be downloaded with NI number so rental companies can check their records before they let you pick up the car keys. What’s worse, that special code only works for three days (for good security reasons, for sure) – which means that you might have to try and get the code twice for one foreign holiday.

The AA’s publicly warned that some overseas car hire companies will refuse rentals unless they see a copy of the information when holidaymakers arrive to collect their vehicles. There is an allied issue to do with fleet car companies also having to skate close to data protection issues when they validate the details of people they use.

Why didn’t the DVLA ask the paperless experts – the DM community?

Well, you have to admit, there are problems.

Clearly, what’s happened is that a particular agenda has been pushed through without any kind of what-if thinking to understand all the scenarios of what might happen after a core business process changes. Partly, that’s a feature of government ICT projects in the UK, which don’t have the greatest reputation for delivering what’s expected of them.  It’s also a side effect of the last, and now the current Government’s desire to bring down the deficit and save taxpayer money by introducing as much digital and electronic exchange of information as possible in public services. That’s a really sensible plan. But everyone knows that a blanket application of that rule runs the risk of creating digital paupers – minorities who don’t want to, or can’t move as quickly as the policy makers would like, and lose out as a result.

ALL the stakeholders need to be on-board for a digitisation project to work

I am sure that the DVLA can address these issues fairly quickly. But the wider point here is that it’s important to not lose sight of the bigger picture. Paperless ways of working work. They certainly do in business, and we’ve dozens of case studies to prove it.

I wish the DVLA had come and asked the DM community about how to make such a big change first. They would have found a lot of really useful information from case studies that might have helped shape their project management a bit better. For a start, they might have been struck by how a good paperless transition project is about ensuring all the stakeholders are in lockstep about what the new process will look like. In the counterparts example, it looks like this didn’t happen – the driver, the agency and the hire car and fleet companies’ perspectives and business needs should have been thoroughly explored, in order to avoid these issues.

The takeaway for us in the Document Management world from this debacle is clear. Paperless saves money, is convenient, can boost the efficiency of multiple business processes and is the ultimate direction of travel. But badly implemented and not properly thought through moves to paperless, like this one, where not all the ramifications have been worked out in advance are not the kind of best practice we are capable of.

Let’s not have any more poor digitisation projects like this, please.

Howard Frear is Director of Sales & Marketing at EASY Software UK

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