Citizens have been encouraged to “write their Congressman” for as long as Congress has existed. Whether to express an opinion, make a suggestion, lodge a complaint, or request personal assistance, citizens write often. As the means to communicate has shifted from postal mail to fax, email, text message and social media, the amount of correspondence has mushroomed. Where does all that communication go? Does anyone actually read it? And if they do, does someone respond? Finally, how do Congressional representatives keep track of all this correspondence and the balance of opinion it represents?
Each of the nation’s 435 congressional offices receives thousands of constituent communications each month. While digital correspondence is on the rise, much of it still arrives on paper via mail or fax – which adds administrative time and expense to cataloging, acknowledging and using the information and opinions. Regardless of correspondence format, most offices catalog and store content in an enterprise content management system called Intranet Quorum (IQ), developed by Lockheed Martin. Information contained in IQ is secure and only accessible to authorized users.
Citizen correspondence is routed to IQ, but how information is captured and indexed has presented several challenges. Ten congressional offices were studied to gauge the effectiveness of the AutoStore® product. Prior to using AutoStore®, these offices were experiencing involved, cumbersome steps in their attempts to scan correspondence to IQ. To illustrate a “before” example, an office was outfitted with one or two copiers with basic scanning functions. A staff member manually scanned and emailed correspondence to another staff member, who would rename the file and manually upload the file and insert index fields into the IQ application. These types of steps could result in three copies of a file, and many unnecessary steps.
The information was securely cataloged and searchable, but the cost was high: According to the office manager for one Illinois Congressman, capturing each document required at least two staff members, three computer copies and a lot of staff time. Emailing large attachments clogged the email system and creating multiple file copies increased network loads. Of course, this also slowed constituents’ responses.
The Illinois office manager succinctly sums up the benefits: “With AutoStore® I can process 10 letters in the time it used to take for one letter.”
More specifically, AutoStore®: