Going Paperless in a Pandemic? YES!

Michigan Department of Treasury
4 min readOct 11, 2021

They wanted their paper, they wanted it in front of them, they wanted to make their notes on it, and they wanted to file it in that filing cabinet. Then, the pandemic hit

“The previous treasurer, Nick Khouri, wanted us to become a paperless environment back in 2016,” recounted Lori Schray, departmental supervisor for Mail and Data Operations. “My unit deals primarily with paper moving all through Treasury and we tried reaching out to a lot of our customers, offering to create electronic workflows for them. Not very many were interested. They wanted their paper, they wanted it in front of them, they wanted to make their notes on it, and they wanted to file it in that filing cabinet.”

The paperless environment project was restarted in late 2019 but stalled a few months later with employees in lockdown at home, unable to get to the letters and files still flowing into the office. Going paperless began with greater urgency after one work area contacted Jason Fuhr and Kristine Sigurani in Data Operations to think-tank a solution that would enable remote workers to access files and process taxpayer refunds. The Mail and Data Ops team responded to the problem by building an electronic workflow through DataCap. It allowed images to be stored in FileNet and created workflows in Siebel or SAP. The project was a huge hit; it reduced paper usage (saving over 200,000 sheets annually) and paper travel, and gave Treasury employees the tools to work successfully from home.

Success has its challenges, however. The team was overwhelmed with requests by Treasury business areas needing a paperless solution for remote workers, and struggled to keep up with demand while dealing with evolving workflows.

“In 2020 alone, we completed over 100 projects,” said Lori. “And each project we had was a completely new process for our staff to learn. It would have been different if the 100 projects were requested over a span of two to three years, which was the intention of the original paperless initiative plan — but we managed to compress 100+ projects into 12 months!”

EMC, Facility, Mail and Data Operations Manager Jeff Connell counts reducing the actual movement of paper as another big win for the project. Printers across the building were set to auto-print reports, and piles of external correspondence arrived daily — up to 30,000 documents each week.

Reports eliminated! All of the paper you see on the table no longer prints.

“Employees admitted that no one read half of what was being stuffed into filing cabinets, stacked on desks or simply recycled,” Jeff said. “Instead of being automatically printed, reports are now delivered electronically. The business area has the information they need without the reams and reams of paper.”

Real savings

Using less paper saves Treasury money, but the real savings is in the reduction of labor involved with paper travel. One piece of correspondence would progress through five or six stops as it made its way through mail, imaging, and multiple business areas.

“We’re probably never going to entirely eliminate the paper coming in the door,” added Jeff. “However, once it comes in the door at the Mail and Data Ops area, our goal now is to turn it into digital form and process it electronically.”

Both Lori and Jeff agree that the pandemic prompted unusually fast changes in business practices. More surprising, they realized it also gave their staff greater freedom to tackle serious problems and innovate the solutions that kept Treasury serving taxpayers while other organizations were shutting down.

“People got creative,” said Lori. “Coming up with physical processes for remote work, like virtual scans and electronic faxes. Jason Fuhr produced significant solutions for the project, and without the pandemic we might not have learned the extent of his talent. Some good things came out of a really terrible situation, and we discovered just how amazing our team really is. We owe the success of this project to the entire Mail and Data Ops staff who worked tirelessly as essential workers under very frustrating conditions.”

“It’s easy to change a process,” added Jeff. “It’s much harder to re-learn multiple processes at the same time. Our staff embodies ‘continuous improvement’ and I know they will take our paperless environment project to the next step in the future.” ~

Fueling the CI Project: Treasury’s Mission, Vision, Values

Treasury’s Mission, Vision, and Values, are built on our foundation of employee engagement, culture of service, and continuous improvement.

Continuous Improvement (CI)is often represented by the PDCA (plan–do–check–act) or PDSA (plan-do-study-act) cycle. The PDSA/PDCA ‘Cycle of Improvement’ is a continuous quality improvement model consisting of a logical sequence of four repetitive steps for continuous improvement and learning.​

CI is Treasury’s commitment to proactive and innovative employee-driven solutions in our daily operations and in strategic financial leadership. It is an ongoing practice to improve products, services, or processes while eliminating system waste and maximizing value for our customers.​​

--

--

Michigan Department of Treasury

The Department of Treasury is committed to maintaining Michigan’s financial integrity. Contact: 517-335-7508