Apr 04 2016

States Strive to Modernize Business Filing Systems

North Dakota, New York and California are among several states attempting to make it easier to conduct business filings online.

In an age when pretty much every transaction can be conducted online, it seems silly that filing as a business remains one of the tasks that many states require entrepreneurs to do offline.

North Dakota, however, is boldly forging ahead with its long-delayed move toward 24-hour online business filing, reports The Bismarck Tribune. The project was proposed in 2004 and set to be completed in 2008 but has been beset by delays.

As of March 1, the state’s Central Indexing System has successfully been moved online, and now software upgrades will be done so information can be entered into it. Though the project is still in the early stages, North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger is pleased with the initial response.

“So far from what we can tell, it’s been successful. (People) are finding the process very simple and easy to use,” Jaeger said in another Tribune article.

California’s Quest for an Online Filing System

While it may not sound like a big deal to those who’ve never established their own business, modernizing the filing system was a major focus of the California Secretary of State candidates in 2014. The California Economic Summit asked candidates how they planned to modernize the state’s paper-based process for registration, the hopefuls weren’t shy about how they’d reimagine the process.

“I will first make all the Secretary of State software systems secure. Then I will proceed to move all paper-based processes to electronic ones using computers with modern databases. I will have new and state-of-the-art websites built to support an all-electronic, online business filing system,” said Democrat Jeffrey H. Drobman.

Given that California is home to digital startup superstars such as Google and Facebook, it’s hard to believe that its registration process remains so analog. Democratic candidate Alex Padilla explained that, if he were elected secretary of state, he would call on the state’s world-renowned tech community to help out.

“As an MIT trained engineer, I am excited about the potential to use technology to modernize the Secretary of State's office and speed up business filings and bring business services online,” he said. “Online registration would be faster, more efficient and help prevent backlogs. I'll call on our state's wealth of technology and innovation leaders to volunteer time and service to provide a much needed 'technology surge' to the office of Secretary of State.”

Unfortunately, once Padilla was elected, his plans to modernize the filing system didn’t go quite so smoothly. Last September, the state put its Business Connect project, which would’ve made the filing process paperless, on hold. As of February this year, California was in search of a new CIO to help it complete this project, among others, reports TechWire.

New York’s Online-Filing State of Mind

While California has been challenged with shifting its processes to a paperless, digital-driven model, New York has succeeded in launching and growing its online-filing registration system.

The new online filing system, which launched in 2014, reached a milestone last year as New York celebrated 100,000 online new corporation and limited liability company filings, according to a press release.

“This modernized and innovative online system encourages entrepreneurs to create opportunities that help reinvigorate our state’s economy,” said New York Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales. “It ultimately benefits all New Yorkers as business filers receive more immediate results, while taxpayers benefit from a more efficient allocation of state resources.”

Like many other things the Internet has made more accessible and simpler, the process of filing to register a new business is faster and more flexible, which has New York’s corporate leaders crowing.

“The online filing system is fast, efficient, reliable and designed to serve the needs of New York state's entrepreneurs,” said Elsie Sanchez of Spiegel & Utrera, P.A., P.C. “I can't remember how we functioned without it.”

As other states labor to deliver their own online filing systems, New York’s appears to be a model worth following and learning from.


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