4 Benefits of Automating Housing Authority Applications

Traditionally, application processing is a core pain point for local, state and federal housing authorities. A telling example of the many problems housing authorities still face today is with the Housing Authority of Champaign-Urbana in Illinois. When they received 6,000 applications with only 1,798 vouchers available, reviewing eligibility, screening the applications and waitlisting applicants was overwhelming with limited staff. Their problem was not an isolated incident either. Many other housing authority application systems are conducted through phone calls or paper applications. These authorities find themselves overwhelmed with calls, office walk-ins and several misfiles when they need to make updates or conduct hand-offs to different departments.

Each year, individuals seeking to rent out their houses, apartments or other dwellings must painstakingly complete and submit massive document packets that often exceed thirty pages. While reviewing these documents is necessary to ensure that these individuals comply with housing authority regulations, performing manual application processing creates organizational gridlock.

The demands for housing are shifting in new, unpredictable ways due to:

  • COVID-19 lockdowns
  • The burgeoning requirement for effective options to work from home
  • Budgetary constraints
  • Dramatically reduced housing inventories

As the government has sought to address these challenges, housing authority personnel have remained bogged down with seemingly endless piles of paper documents, inhibiting their ability to perform more dynamic tasks. To compound issues, housing authorities cannot efficiently process these applications, which diminishes the experience of individuals who rely upon these public services.

Public housing authority entities are an essential service for the public sector, serving over 2 million individuals and families each year. To alleviate these barriers to efficiency, these organizations must seriously consider automating application processes for housing authorities. This automation can be accomplished via the deployment of intelligent document processing solutions.

How Can Housing Authorities Implement Application Processing Automation?

In the past, manual application processing was the only pragmatic approach to analyzing vital housing authority documents. Fortunately, that is no longer the case. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have been incorporated into a leading-edge technology known as intelligent document processing (IDP) software. These tools have led to innovative new solutions that can streamline and automate otherwise tedious tasks.

What Is IDP Software?

IDP software leverages AI and ML technologies’ power to convert unstructured and semi-structured data into usable information. In addition, IDP technology transforms documents by capturing, classifying and extracting data. From there, IDP solutions serve as a delivery system that can route newly structured information to your ERP, RPA, ECM, iPaaS or analytics platforms.

What are the Benefits of Automating Housing Authority Applications?

Due to the global pandemic outbreak, housing authorities across the nation were already inundated with applications from residents and property owners. Many of them processed the applications manually. As housing authority personnel were forced out of their offices for extended periods of time, these issues were exacerbated, which put these organizations even further behind.

By strategically deploying an IDP solution, housing authorities can overcome these challenges. Here are a few of the benefits:

  • Increased Efficiency

Increasing efficiency is essential if housing authorities hope to dislodge the pandemic-induced (and pre-pandemic) application bottlenecks they are currently facing. As the future of workplaces and workflows remains uncertain, adding automation frameworks through IDP solutions can ensure that housing authority employees gain access to documents and data more rapidly than ever before. 

By increasing document accessibility and reducing the need for manual document processing tasks, IDP solutions can significantly boost efficiency and “future-proof” the application process. This digital approach means that each team member will boost their productivity while simultaneously improving processing accuracy. 

  • Time Saved

IDP solutions allow housing authorities to spend far less time on redundant tasks. Automating processes and tasks will free employees to focus on more value-added responsibilities to further the housing authorities’ missions of connecting underserved communities with affordable housing.

Modern IDP technologies save time on the front end of document processing and streamline back-office activities. For instance, intelligent document processing tools increase the accuracy of data extraction, which translates into fewer data entry or processing errors. As a result, back-office personnel will receive fewer customer complaints and can spend less time correcting erroneous applications.

  • Reduced Administrative Costs

Cumulatively, increased efficiency, decreased data entry errors, and enhanced productivity will lower administrative costs for housing authorities. This cost reduction would mean that a larger percentage of funds can be allocated towards front-facing initiatives that benefit those in need.

  • A Streamlined Application Approval Process

Lastly, IDP and automation technologies streamline the application approval process. This streamlining means that individuals in need of affordable housing can access these vital services more efficiently.

Finding housing can be a stressful process. Everyone wins when local, state and federal housing authorities automate application processing. What matters most is the ability to remove obstacles and delays for those who need a place to call home. For this reason, it is crucial that housing authorities pivot towards automating the application process because:

  • Applicants can have a home faster.
  • Applicants can feel less stress about whether or not their application will be rejected based on a clerical error.
  • Housing authority staff can feel ready for large volumes of applications without the fear of burnout.

Industry Leading Solutions from Ephesoft

During the pandemic, the transition away from centralized offices made it difficult for housing authority personnel to provide access to the data they needed for their downstream processes. Fortunately, automating application processes for housing authorities offers significant benefits to the applicants, staff members and the organization itself. However, choosing the right software and vendor partner is integral to the success of any organizational automation initiative.

For those involved in housing authority application processing at the local, state, or federal level, you need a partner like Ephesoft. Our business process, automation, and IDP solutions can address common pain points faced by public housing authorities across all levels of government.

Schedule a live demo or a free trial to learn more about how our leading IDP solution technologies can take document automation from complex to simple. Ephesoft is available on Project Hosts’ federal private cloud FedRAMP-Authorized platform

Resources for Government Agencies: 

Top Data Tech Trends Among Government Agencies

Across the nation, federal, state and local government agencies are reevaluating the ways they process and manage their data. Thought leaders and department heads are actively looking for efficient ways to digitize existing documents and make valuable data more accessible to staff. 

Workers in government have likely already experienced this adjustment firsthand as these various technologies have changed how these jobs are done. Some of the top data tech trends that small and large businesses are using to incorporate data are available to government agencies. These various technologies are revolutionizing how government officials interact with internal and external data.

Why the Sudden Culture Shift?

Two key factors have fueled the push to go digital. Chief among them for the federal space is Memorandum M-19-21, created by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The memorandum requires agencies to digitize and electronically manage all records by the end of 2022. The original deadline was set for the end of 2021 but was extended due to the coronavirus pandemic. While the M-19-21 Memorandum was created well before the pandemic, the disruptions to core governmental processes caused by office closures reinforced the need for digital solutions.  

In addition, the nationwide closures of all government offices prevented millions of employees from accessing vital records and systems.  Old processes were in jeopardy and caused a slow down for agencies that were not digital yet. The pandemic exposed a huge gap of IT resources available to accommodate working from home as many systems were not available to remote workers. Because employees couldn’t go into the offices, they had limited access to necessary records.

What Technologies Are Governments Prioritizing to Manage Data Better?

While each federal agency is taking a unique approach to digitizing its records and utilizing digital-centric processes to gain efficiencies, several trends have emerged among these entities. The organizations that have been most successful at transitioning to new data processes have taken a multifaceted approach. They are strategically deploying innovative technologies that work together to provide a seamless digital experience.

Four of these processes are vital to fueling the switch to digital technologies.

1. Handwriting Extraction Software

As part of any digitization process, agencies should convert handwritten documents into an electronic format. However, until recently, manual data entry and transcription have been extremely labor-intensive. To make matters worse, the potential for transcription errors is incredibly high.

As a result, many departments are leveraging the latest handwriting recognition software. The technology can capture printing and cursive handwriting data that has long been a source of hardship for many organizations. 

Cutting-edge software can deliver accuracy up to 88% when capturing complex handwritten and cursive writing. This cloud hybrid technology can also enhance processing speed by 10 times compared to traditional handwriting analysis software.

2. Intelligent Document Processing

IDP or intelligent document processing solutions are valuable, especially when paired with RPA technology. This software provides government agencies with a complete workflow that can augment the capabilities of their legacy systems.

Truly innovative governmental agencies are evolving differently. They are transitioning from only using RPA solutions and adding more modern and elegant iPaaS technologies paired with IDP solutions to transform unstructured data into the right format. This provides superior scalability, which is necessary for organizations that handle data from millions of citizens or businesses.

3. Machine Learning and AI

Machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies are integral to the success of agencies transforming their data and records. 

When appropriately deployed, machine learning and AI technologies can perform various redundant processes, allowing human workers to perform tasks faster with less manual work. 

Several government organizations have already realized the value of these technologies. As the name suggests, these technologies can “learn” over time. They use past experiences and data to improve their efficiency through the use of complex computer algorithms.

4. RPA Solutions

Robotic process automation (RPA) software mimics human capture and repetitive, routine tasks, making it a staple of digital businesses.

While many government agencies were already using some form of RPA technology, some of these solutions are antiquated. In response to the ever-growing regulations and compliance requirements, as well as the M-19-21, many organizations are reevaluating their existing RPA deployments. They are also partnering with technology-focused IDP firms to optimize the effectiveness of their automated processes.

Embrace New Technology 

As government agencies strive to meet the requirements of M-19-21, privacy and other document-centric regulations, organizations can optimize their processes on new technology trends to help deliver a better experience to their constituents. An experienced, intelligent document processing partner should offer comprehensive digital solutions to create a plan that covers all facets of the move to new technologies.

Ephesoft’s experienced team of experts can assist agencies preparing to digitize records. By deploying the latest technologies and tools, we redefine the speed of work without manual data entry. Contact us today to schedule a demo of our digital government solutions. 

How Intelligent Document Processing Helps Government Organizations

Government facilities exist to help countries and cities function as intended. Unfortunately, too many agencies around the globe are stuck in the past, opting to use outdated manual processes in all facets of their work. One of those antiquated processes includes data extraction and storage.

There’s a better way to gather and send data for government agencies: intelligent document processing (IDP). Here’s what you need to know about IDP and how it can be so effective for automation within government organizations.

What is Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) in Government?

Before we get into the industry specifics, let’s first go over IDP as a whole. Intelligent document processing is a software solution that combines optical scanning technology with artificial intelligence to process documents and data. 

Essentially, IDP will:

  • Pull information directly from digital and physical documents.
  • Organize or classify that information into document types.
  • Export it into another application or data repository so it can be referenced or analyzed at any time. 

This can lead to improved efficiency, accuracy and productivity for data extraction and delivery.

Application to Government Roles

So how does intelligent document processing apply to government agencies? Well, federal and state governments handle a lot of information. With over 2.2 million federal government employees in the United States and millions more state and local government employees, that amount of information borders on insurmountable. If your agency plans on processing all of that data manually, you’re in for long nights and a lot of data entry errors.

That’s where IDP comes in—and this process has already helped forward-thinking government agencies jumpstart their digital transformation. With IDP, every branch and level of government—whether city councils, housing authorities or revenue services—can automate their processes.

Top 5 IDP Use Cases in Government 

While there are hundreds of different ways IDP can be implemented into government agency processes, let’s focus on the five that might just provide the greatest improvements for the public sector.

1. Data Compliance, Privacy and Security

Government employees have access to highly sensitive information. To modernize and secure government documents, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) have set forth document management requirements (M-19-21). 

Those requirements include the following:

  1. All federal records must be created, retained and managed in a digital format and include appropriate metadata.
  2. Record keeping must be consistent with records management laws and regulations, with all analog records transferred to the Federal Records Center or a commercial storage facility.

These requirements must be met by the end of 2022 for all United States government agencies. If you aren’t currently compliant, there is no time to waste.

IDP can help this transition run smoothly. Most obviously, IDP streamlines the digitization of physical records by using document capture.

The software also ensures the information is accurate and automatically redacts any sensitive information that shouldn’t be released to the public. Since every digital document will live in a secure database, there is a reduced risk that sensitive information will be leaked and published without the agency’s consent.

2. Records Digitization and Archiving

With non-digital records, the analog copies are likely sitting in a filing cabinet, a box or someone’s desk. This way of record-keeping is obsolete—it isn’t searchable or indexable, so trying to find a specific dataset or information is next to impossible.

Fortunately, IDP’s primary function is to digitize records in an indexable manner. After scanning a document, whether analog or digital, the IDP extracts, classifies and exports the structured data.

This automation will help make your services more accessible to your constituents. Not to mention, you won’t have to spend so much money renting physical storage spaces.

3. Handprint Recognition and Extraction

Handprint varies greatly, which can make digitization a serious issue. It is, however, a necessary evil—many documents and processes require physical signatures. That requirement isn’t going away anytime soon.

Aside from the handwriting itself, plenty of other issues can contribute to difficulty in handprint analysis, including:

  • Poor scan quality
  • Variations of the same document
  • Fax conversions
  • Misspellings

For many years, technology has not been able to produce accurate interpretations of handprint. Fortunately, Ephesoft’s IDP solution can recognize and extract handprint of any type with incredible accuracy, even with minimal human intervention. If our solution does encounter difficult-to-read handprinting, it will alert your team to validate the text.

4. Background Checks, Adjudication and Identity Verification

Many government agencies need to collect the personal information of citizens for a variety of use cases. This information may come from documents like:

  • Driver’s licenses
  • Passports
  • Visas
  • Healthcare cards
  • Tax forms
  • Employee documents

In many cases, a government official must take that document and input the information manually. This process is slow and slashes efficiency in a variety of settings, including employee onboarding and public sector applications.

A simple remedy to this bottleneck is intelligent document processing. IDP accelerates the hyperautomation of personal data collection and ensures the information scanned is highly accurate. This process also stores the personal information so your employees can quickly bring up data for returning users and verify their identity.

5. Digital Mailroom Automation

Government employees are bombarded with endless letters and emails. Without a system to track all incoming and outgoing correspondence, a lot of information risks getting lost. 

By using Ephesoft’s intelligent document capture solutions, you can scan every physical and digital document the moment it enters your system and send the information to those who need it. This drastically reduces the risk of mail getting lost in an inbox or going unnoticed.

How to Get Started with Automation

It’s easy—intelligent document processing is the best way to digitize your government agency’s records and become compliant with the impending data compliance protocols. But how can you start to automate your data extraction and storage process? Begin your digital transformation journey with intelligent document processing.

Learn more in an eBook that goes into much more detail about how IDP can transform your government processes. Download Top 5 Use Cases for Intelligent Document Processing in Government, and get all the information you need to accelerate processes, reduce errors, automate tedious processes and ensure compliance for years to come.

Ephesoft’s IDP technology will help you accelerate your records digitization efforts and bring your agency into the modern era. And, we’re FedRAMP moderate compliant and AFNIC certified. Contact us today for more information.

NARA’s M-19-21 Mandate is Approaching: Intelligent Document Processing to the Rescue

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)’s Memorandum M-19-21 mandate is approaching. If you’re in the federal government, chances are that you are aware – and possibly dreading – the upcoming deadline to digitize and electronically manage all of your records by the end of 2022. 

Records digitization is critical to preserving historical records and something that recent generations are already doing. The National Archives has been storing digital files in the Electronic Record Archives (ERA) on servers, not filed boxes of paper documents in large storage facilities. But the explosion and growing amount of data and documents must not only be preserved but also made easily accessible in order to deliver value beyond saving space and paper. 

Let’s not despair knowing that IDC has predicted that data worldwide will grow 10X and 175 zettabytes by 2025, with over 80% of it unstructured. Intelligent document processing (IDP) and automation solutions, such as Ephesoft’s, are the key to digitizing records and images accurately, fast and at scale. There are ways using AI and machine learning technology to automatically index or classify records and extract the data so no manual data entry or rekeying is necessary. Scanning documents is not enough; searchable, actionable data is needed for future use.

Intelligent document processing (IDP) and data capture solutions extend beyond the federal government into state, local, education (SLED) entities as well as into the private sector. 

Any kind of documents, records (paper or electronic), contracts or forms can be digitally transformed into actionable data. Once data is transformed and in the right structured format, organizations can focus on becoming data compliant, which is becoming a common initiative as government regulations evolve to protect privacy and ensure security. 

Other use cases where intelligent document capture and data extraction are saving time and money while increasing accuracy, customer satisfaction and compliance include:

Are you ready to explore your use case and minimize document challenges? There’s still time to beat NARA’s deadline.