Paperless municipal meetings a mission impossible?

The topic comes up time and again in every company: valuable work time shouldn’t be wasted on long meetings. This is unsurprising, if you realize that the average employee meets 6.5 hours. Although the meeting process in companies can often be easily streamlined, municipalities face greater challenges when it comes to updating meetings. Municipal meetings consist of many hierarchal layers and a large number of employees are involved: not only during, but also before and after the meeting. The more organized the meeting process, the fewer man-hours and costs. And a more efficient meeting process requires fewer paper documents, that also contributes to a more sustainable organization.

Meeting process that is easier to follow

Would such a streamlined meeting process seem like a challenge? Municipalities that already use digital meetings know better. With an iPad, laptop and digital meeting tool, you already have the most important components. All meeting documents are inserted into and controlled using a tool for paperless meetings. This makes the meeting process much easier for participants to follow and it saves the secretariat and General Affairs a great deal of time. And naturally the materials are safe inside of a secure user environment.

And meeting participants? They don’t need to lug around bags and binders full of paper anymore.

Challenges for municipal organizations

If a city wants to introduce paperless meetings, they often need to combat agains persistent preconceived notions. For convenience, we have put a number of them in a row:

Preconception 1: Paperless meetings are too expensive

In every organization there are people who resist change. One argument that is used to defer implementation of digital meetings is that they are expensive. A good calculation of the financial benefits will eliminate this notion. Make a detailed list of the benefits in comparison with the investment (the devices and meeting tool). The benefits are seen in printing costs, toners and cartridges, paper, mailing costs of the documents, depreciation on printers is minimized and so is archive space. And naturally, you save many, many man-hours, particularly before and after the meeting.

Preconception 2: Lack of support 

Paperless meetings need to have the support of the entire organization. Will this be an issue in your municipality? For instance, because of the digital generation gap or because there was immediate resistance to change? Then involve your colleagues as quickly as possible in the transition to digital meetings. Generously share information about the benefits and, if necessary, phase them in gradually, allowing paper documents in conference room during the transition. In addition, you can enlist the help of colleagues who love new gadgets and tools. Allow these “early adopters” to take the meeting tool for a test drive. If they are enthusiastic, then other colleagues will climb on board more quickly. In addition, workshops can be given by external parties.

Preconception 3: Surely that can’t be safe?

Many people who are used to working with tangible meeting materials consider digital meetings unsafe. If the ICT colleagues are truly involved, then this preconception is quickly dismissed. They know better than anyone the essential requirements of the new software. For instance, meeting apps need to comply with rules and regulations to guarantee safety. The ICT department can help select the tool that best suits your safety requirements. The way that meeting documents are stored is also important in this context. In the cloud, on premise or will a combination be chosen?

Curious to read about the real-life experiences in a municipal case study? Download here that of Utrecht, a large city in the Netherlands.? Then download the case study here. They have significant experience paperless meetings.