Magazine Article | February 1, 2002

Instant Win

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

By eliminating paper in its sales agent licensing processes, the New York Lottery found the winning ticket to efficient workflow management.

Integrated Solutions, February 2002

Jeffrey Allen, licensing manager for the New York Lottery (Schenectady, NY), picks up his phone at the central office. On the other end is, once again, a state legislator convinced there's some bureaucratic red tape in need of scissoring. "Listen, a guy in my district says he sent in his application over a month ago. He hasn't heard anything yet. What's going on over there?" Sitting in front of his computer, Allen does a document search based on an identifier for that file. Within seconds, he has pulled up the scanned documents related to the applicant in question. "I'm looking at the file right now," Allen informs the caller. "It looks as though the business was initially evaluated by the district sales rep. The rep looked at store sales, customer counts, and the location of the store. Someone from the regional office will be doing a second visit before the regional manager can make a recommendation. What's that? Yes, that's right. We would have to receive a clean report on the background check before we can set him up to sell tickets." All in a few minutes' work for Allen. Answer the phone, glance at some scanned documents, offer a brief status report, and move on. With an average of 300 applications submitted each month and a statewide base of more than 14,500 lottery agents to maintain and grow, Allen has little time to waste scouring the files for documents.

But, until recently, it wasn't that simple - or that fast - for Allen or the six regional managers to check the status of an application. In fact, the odds of quickly locating a complete, accurate version of an applicant's file were about as long as winning a $30 million LOTTO jackpot. The New York Lottery had been relying on a paper-based routing system in which each application would travel, by mail or truck, back and forth between the central office and one of six regional offices. During the evaluation process, an application would grow to 20 or more pages in length, including site evaluations, reports on lottery sales in an area, and maps of lottery outlets. In addition to volumes of paper, there were inaccuracies and delays associated with keeping multiple hard copies of the application in file folders in several departments at two different offices. "There was paper going all over the place," Allen remembers. "People from different departments would borrow files and put them back in the wrong folder. Applicants would call to check their status, and we couldn't locate their paperwork." It's no wonder Allen was convinced that, for increased efficiency in the agent licensing process, a document imaging and workflow management system was a sure bet.

Increase Your Odds Of Having Efficient Workflow
In the case of the New York Lottery, there was no small degree of irony in its reliance on a decidedly low-tech system. As part of its efforts to generate proceeds for its designated beneficiary, K-12 education, the Lottery sponsors promotional drawings for computer equipment to be given directly to schools. While young learners around the state were benefiting from $4 million worth of the latest computer technologies, the Lottery was stuffing more than 150 filing cabinets with paper.

To stop the madness, the Lottery implemented a system designed around IBM's ImagePlus VisualInfo, a content and workflow management software package. The Lottery has since upgraded to a more recent version of the product, Content Manager. Now, after an applicant mails in the initial two-page form, Lottery staff scan it on a Fujitsu scanner, assign it an index number, and file it online in Content Manager's file management system. As each application makes its way toward Allen's desk for final approval, various staff involved in the evaluation move it from one electronic workbasket to the next, according to a review schedule. Along the way, additional pages can be scanned from any Lottery office and appended as separate documents under the same index number as the original application. Content Manager's "view history" feature allows users to trace the progress of an application and determine when and where delays are occurring. Because a single index number collects all related documents and notes as they are routed from workbasket to workbasket, all network users are assured access to the same version of the application.

According to Allen, the combination of document imaging and Content Manager's workflow management tools has led to a 20% time reduction in the agent licensing process - from 75 to 60 days, on average. "It used to take days for me to respond to inquiries about applications because our regional staff had to search their files for information and mail it to headquarters," Allen says. "Additional materials would often be added to the application folder at a regional office but wouldn't automatically be photocopied and mailed to headquarters. So, we would have to mail incomplete applications back and forth until they were complete."

Cash In On Document Imaging
Impressed by increased efficiency in agent licensing, as well as the sudden disappearance of 150 filing cabinets, other operations within the Lottery have implemented document imaging and electronic workflow. Consequently, the Lottery now has more than 130 workbaskets set up in Content Manager and 128 desktop users of the system. Those users include staff charged with approving applications for promotional giveaways. The Lottery is barraged with applications from TV stations, radio stations, and other organizations wanting to use lottery tickets as prizes. Certain promotional uses have to be approved by as many as five people, so the workbasket system is particularly useful. In auditing closed promotions, the accounting department is using scanned lists of promotion winners to account for each individual recipient of a free lottery ticket.

The subscription department is now scanning subscription and renewal forms. It uses the information to maintain an accurate database of people who pay in advance to be automatically entered in drawings.

Finally, the security department is using the scanning system to file reports from fingerprinting and background checks. (The Lottery rejects applications from business owners who have questionable criminal backgrounds.) Background and fingerprint checks signify that an application is in the last stage before approval. Scanning that information into the system increases the chance that Allen will more quickly have all the information he needs to determine whether or not to license a new sales agent. And, he likes being able to reach a decision more quickly. It keeps him from having to reach for the phone.