Don’t Print That Letter!
Tweed Shire Council’s Transition to eLetters
April 21, 2015
Sending digitally signed eLetters is allowing Tweed Shire Council to meet customer and community expectations, reducing paper and printing costs and administrative effort while delivering a stronger governance outcome.
“Our community and customers expect timely responses from Council and being able to respond in an electronic form is extremely valuable in meeting these expectations, General Manager, Troy Green, said”
In fact, it was becoming increasingly frequent that support staff were asked to scan a letter once the hard copy was signed and send it attached to an email.
Frustrated with the additional work this practice created, the Personal Assistants' (PAs) Group within Council initiated a project to develop an electronic outgoing correspondence procedure. A key concern right from the beginning was a way to securely sign an eLetter. After much discussion about how access to scanned images of Directors' and Managers' signatures might be controlled, it became apparent that images of signatures were simply not appropriate.
The procedure adopted by the Executive Management Team mandates the use of a PKI digital signature for electronic outgoing correspondence. The digital signature provides recipients of eLetters with high confidence in the authenticity of electronic correspondence they receive from Council. Both Council and the recipient can also be confident that the document is reliable, as the digital signature verification checks that nothing has changed in the letter after it was signed.
Outgoing correspondence is drafted and reviewed as usual in MS Word using a template that includes the logo and other branding from the pre-printed letterhead used for hard copy mail. A simple print process converts to PDF and a highly secure digital signature, unique to the document is applied.
The signing process is a single click process using the OmniSign software supplied with Council's CoSign digital signature capability. The concerns identified by the PAs group about controlling access to electronic signatures is addressed by the centralised approach of the CoSign appliance. Each person’s graphical signature and their unique signing credentials are stored securely in the CoSign appliance.
The signed letter is sent as an attachment to an email. The sent email along with the attached digitally signed letter is captured to the ECM system. This means the corporate record contains not only the outgoing letter, but also whom it was sent to and the date and time it was sent.
Electronic correspondence has a number of benefits for Council. The first is that it meets the expectations of customers and the community for timeliness and the convenience of electronic communications. Reducing Council's consumption of paper and print consumables is important for both cost and environmental reasons. Electronic correspondence will make a significant impact in reducing both the paper and toner cartridges the organisation consumes.
“For me personally, the ability to sign electronically is a real convenience and a real time saver for the organisation as a whole,” Mr Green said.
In assessing the suitability of digital signing and the authenticity and reliability they offer over simple electronic signatures, it also became apparent that moving to electronic correspondence has a positive impact on governance and risk. With cheap, high quality scanners and printers so readily available, the evidentiary value of ink signatures on paper is much diminished. The direct capture of both the securely signed electronic letter along with the delivery details creates a much stronger information governance outcome for the organisation.
Council's Manager Corporate Governance, Neil Baldwin, was responsible for assessing both the opportunity and the risk in adopting an electronic outgoing correspondence procedure.
“Once we understood the security that digital signing offers us and the fact that we now know when the eLetter is delivered and to whom, electronic correspondence is a significant improvement over our traditional hard copy mail process, Mr Baldwin said”
Following a successful trial, the electronic outgoing correspondence procedure was formally adopted for use across the organisation. Recognising the convenience, simplicity and savings of electronic correspondence, it is now the preferred method for outgoing correspondence from Council.
About Tweed Shire Council
Tweed Shire Council, the largest Council on the north coast of New South Wales, has an annual budget of approximately $194 million and is the largest employer in the Tweed with a workforce of approximately 670 employees across a wide range of programs and services. Council delivers these services for the more than 35,000 ratepayers and 89,000 plus residents who call the Tweed home.
Tweed Shire covers 1303 square kilometres and adjoins the NSW shires of Byron, Lismore and Kyogle, with the NSW/Queensland border to its north where it divides the twin towns of Tweed Heads and Coolangatta. The stunning centrepiece of the Tweed, where the sun first hits the Australian continent, is Wollumbin / Mount Warning which is surrounded by national parks forming the caldera of the fertile Tweed Valley. With 37 kms of natural coastline, wetlands and forests, lush pastoral and farm land, the entire basin of the Tweed River, and mountainous regions containing three World Heritage listed national parks, Tweed boasts a unique and diverse environment high in biodiversity.
About TME Digital Signature
TME Digital Signature (TME Consulting Ltd) incorporated in early 2003 to offer eSignature solutions to variety of industries in the Australasia market. It provides professional and comprehensive Personalised X509 PKI digital signature products and authentication, delivers a full range of capabilities that combine advanced technology with local support in New Zealand and Australia, and bases its activities on the extensive knowledge and experience of its team of experts.
TME's key customer base serves a wide variety of industries: Local Government, Government Agencies, Recruitment, Human Resources, Financial Services, Accountants, Engineering and Manufacturing, Legal Firms, Life Science, Healthcare, Airlines, professional services, and many more. For more information please visit: www.digitalsignature.co.nz
Phone AUS: 1800 305 175
Phone NZ: 0800 55 33 66