(Photo: Jim Damian, CEO, Stria)
Can a filing system change the life of a child?
For most people this question might seem so absurd that it’s not worth asking, but for Jim Damian it was an intriguing puzzle with a surprising answer.
In the early 2000’s, Damian was a child welfare social worker charged with protecting some of the most vulnerable citizens of Alameda County. His case load was large and the county’s data system made a difficult job even harder.
“The technology was very dated and paper-based. We could find some personal information online, but we had to go to a huge file room to search for case files and sometimes they would be missing, either lost or in the trunk of another social worker’s car,” he says.
Out of his frustration over not being able to quickly locate case files, Damian threw himself into learning about technology and how it might be able to help solve the problem. Even though he knew nothing about technology, he knew there must be a better way to do the work.
“I started designing tech tools for myself to manage my cases even though I wasn’t a tech person at the time,” he says. “I just started reading about how to create workflows. I researched it and devoured books. I learned it out of necessity. Nobody was showing me the way.”
But it wasn’t without controversy. Some within the agency doubted that seasoned social workers would adopt a new way of doing things. After all, most people don’t go into social work because they are interested in technology — they want to help people.
Yet Damian was determined to show that technology can “make things work better for society.”
Eventually, he persuaded the county child welfare agency to switch over to the digital system he created. With faster, more accessible information and accurate data, even the biggest doubters began to see the benefits of using digital files.
Damian had found a better way to work. Thanks to the system he created, social workers could quickly move children into safe environments. The children didn’t know what type of filing system was in place. All they knew was they were safer and more secure.
In 2005, Damian left social work to become an entrepreneur. He founded Stria. Its original focus was on scanning documents and converting them into digital files, but with each year Stria evolved, guided by the question, “How can we make this better for people?” Stria still scans paper, yet also provides eSignature technology, workflow automation and back office services to a range of industries.
The COVID-19 pandemic presented Stria with a new challenge: How can organizations be effective when people cannot physically come together?
“Using e-signatures has been a great way to help companies pivot into the new operating standards we now have as a society due to social distancing,” Damian says. “It also happens to be a more convenient, efficient and affordable way to get agreements processed and stored without having to sacrifice comfort.”
Thanks to the DocuSign services offered by Stria, organizations can collect legally binding signatures without ever having to leave their home offices.
Another service that is becoming increasingly popular is Workflow Automation. Stria streamlines and simplifies the way companies run their businesses, giving them the ability to work across platforms and teams seamlessly.
“Automation is enormous,” Damian says. “That’s our business. Using workflow to automate processes. This is vital, especially when documents require multiple signatures and include attachments. With an automated flow of information through a system, the system knows who is supposed to sign and where, based on rules. The document is then stored in an electronic file system that is easy to navigate.”
Before automated workflows and e-signatures, office work was a manual process. Companies would typically need an employee to physically carry documents around to get them signed. Then those documents had to be scanned and filed.
Now, Stria helps design rules to fit each companies’ needs and then programs the system to follow the rules to ensure that the process is streamlined and efficient. Advanced workflows are now starting to leverage artificial intelligence (AI).
“AI helps us to not have to think of every if/then scenario. It poses questions that we might not think to ask,” Damian says. “AI finds data patterns. It analyzes how products are used and suggests new paths automatically. AI will look at your documents and automatically tag them to make them easier to search, remind you to include attachments or send it to certain people.
“It can find patterns before they are apparent to human brain.”
Damian’s clientele is different from 15 years ago — the company now works with leaders in agriculture, education, healthcare, and energy — and the guiding question remains the same, ‘How can we make this better?’ Damian’s refrain, familiar to all in the company, is that they are there to positively impact lives and livelihoods. Automating process, managing workflow, and making data accessible and easy to use allows educators to focus on students, farmers to focus on crops, and healthcare workers to focus on patients.
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