February 7, 2019
AMO WatchFile Guest Column

Robert Treumann
President and CEO
eSCRIBE Software Inc.

The term “digital transformation” means different things to different people, but all would agree that the shift of processes and materials to digital platforms has dramatically changed the world. We have moved from stone tablets to touchscreen tablets, as the way people want to interact with each other continues to evolve.

For municipalities, digital transformation provides tremendous opportunities to improve operational processes and better engage with residents. Citizens are demanding it; technology is enabling it.

As noted in AMO’s 2017 report, #OnMuni Online, municipalities are at varying stages of digital maturation. For many, digital transformation started with moving to paperless records management, or by enabling self-serve, online options for public-facing services ranging from bylaw inquiries to licensing applications.

However, many municipalities have not yet extended their digital transformation initiatives to their public meetings. By applying the same principles not only to meeting-related documentation but also to the processes that drive the meetings, they can realize significant gains in efficiency and transparency while fulfilling their accessibility mandates.

Elevating Efficiency
Municipal meetings consume a lot of resources before, during and after the event, with staff and administrators handling massive amounts of material. By automating manually-intensive processes ranging from agenda creation and approvals to website publication of minutes, municipalities can save considerable time and effort. And for organizations still using paper-based agendas and reports, moving to digital meeting management can significantly reduce printing, shipping and storage costs.

Transparency and Accountability
In today’s hyper-connected society, citizens demand timely information about how their elected officials are making decisions. Online availability of agendas and minutes is now just a baseline for openness and transparency; live video streaming of meetings provides further immediacy while enabling increased public engagement. Meanwhile, in-meeting tools such as electronic voting enhance accountability, letting the public see how each member contributed to a decision.

Advancing Accessibility
Municipalities that have recently revamped their websites must already comply with AODA accessibility legislation and WCAG 2.0 specifications, while those lagging behind have impending deadlines for meeting these requirements. Your website serves as a conduit for sharing information about your meetings, so in addition to your site itself being accessible, all meeting-related content – including agendas, minutes and videos – must be equally as compliant.

Three Benefits, One Platform
While the three pillars of efficiency, transparency and accessibility may be considered separate goals, from a practical standpoint they are in many ways inseparable. Manually adding meeting documents to your website may enable transparency, but is far less efficient than automated publishing. Spending hours manipulating an agenda to comply with AODA on your website provides accessibility but hinders efficiency, and delays transparency.

Seamlessly addressing all three facets requires an integrated, end-to-end meeting management solution that streamlines pre-meeting, during-meeting and post-meeting processes and outputs accessible, web-ready content. Point solutions that handle only individual meeting aspects cannot deliver the sustainable digital transformation benefits of a unified platform.

At eSCRIBE, we approach the entire meeting lifecycle holistically, from agenda preparation to the conducting of live meetings, and the publishing of post-meeting documents in AODA-compliant form. As an Ontario-based company ourselves, you can also trust eSCRIBE to understand and address the unique issues facing Ontario municipalities – from the changes in Bill 68 to data sovereignty concerns.

Our comprehensive platform has helped many Ontario municipal governments digitally transform their meetings, from small and mid-sized municipalities such as the Township of North Huron, the City of Thorold and Haldimand County to large cities and regions including the cities of Burlington, Hamilton and Peterborough.  We look forward to helping more AMO members achieve their digital transformation goals.

To learn more, read our digital transformation blog post, and visit www.escribemeetings.com.

Please join us on Wednesday, February 13 at noon for a free webinar where we will take a deeper dive into eSCRIBE solutions and our new partnership with AMO.
*Disclaimer: The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) is unable to provide any warranty regarding the accuracy or completeness of third-party submissions. Distribution of these items does not imply an endorsement of the views, information or services mentioned.