Monday, January 5, 2015

Paper nightmare

Cut paper bear artwork, Ace Hotel LA
I've been asked to temporarily take over a co-worker's task, while she works on another assignment. My co-worker is the one who signs off on requests for activity permits at our small city's beautiful beaches.

It's been just shy of a year since our organization contracted out most of the work to a permitting agency, so my colleague's job is supposed to be easier - the process is all online. We get email prompts to approve a request, and we just go into the system and click.

But the system is clunky, hard to navigate, so my colleague still uses her previous work methods to track her work.

"When a call or email request comes in," I was told when in training, "just take one of these forms and fill it out." She pulled a piece of paper from a folder and grabbed a pencil.

The paper had blanks to fill in, with things like Name, Date, Location, Contact Name, Phone Number.

Then, we refer the applicant to the contractor, who handles all the rest of the details in their online system.

I know it sounds crazy, but the online system doesn't have a calendar view, so then we take the pencil and write the exact same information in a "Week-at-a-glance" notebook calendar - this assures we won't double book activity spaces.

When the agency has  completed the permit, the system prompts me for final approval. When this happens, I have to compare the information from the online system with the calendar and the penciled-in forms to make sure they're all correct. If there are any new details, I have to update the paperwork by hand. If I have any questions, I have to consult the paperwork for client contact info - the online system doesn't store email addresses or hyperlink to a message system.

 At some later date, someone will have to enter all this information into a separate Excel spreadsheet, that will keep track of permits for each fiscal year.

So, to summarize - because we are working with an online system that:

1) doesn't maintain a calendar view
2) doesn't include hyperlinks
3) doesn't run reports

we are maintaining an entirely separate system similar to one used in 1970.

To "help" me, our office has a screener who takes the initial phone calls with requests. The calendar and file of info sheets live on her desk.  So - adding to the inefficiency - anytime a permit request needs approval, I log into the system, pull up the online info, and then get up from my desk and go down the hall to retrieve the calendar and info sheet, before I can go into the online system and click "approved."

Is this insane? What year are we in, anyway?  Why am I printing pieces of paper off my computer so that I can fill in the blanks with a pencil?


Anonymous said...

Ha! I feel your pain. But look at it this way, if they had a more efficient computer system, they might eliminate someone's job. So perhaps inefficiency = job security.


Jenny said...

We have a similar lovely system here at MOunt Sinai. We copy info off the computer onto paper forms (by hand), interview clients and take new information (by hand), type that info into the computer (and the program doesn't flow well from one screen to another, so you have to retype a lot), THEN send the hand written pages down to HQ while we once again write info on a white board for all to check. You can't beat progress.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

It's been just shy of a year since our organization contracted out most of the work to a permitting agency, so my colleague's job is supposed to be easier

Funny that that tends to work out, and by funny, I mean sad.

The "paperless office" sure tends to generate a lot of useless paperwork.

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

Oh. good. grief!

David Duff said...

About halfway through your job description I began to lose the will to live!

Claudia from Idiot's Kitchen said...

Isn't progress and technology great?