Increasing Efficiency in Government With Digitized Forms INDUSTRY PERSPECTIVE
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Executive Summary Citizen interactions with government agencies, compared with private companies, can seem like night and day in terms of ease, efficiency and speed. For starters, many government services start with paper applications. Although documents may be available online, they often don’t display well on mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, and sometimes must be printed and manually filled out anyway. When citizens finally complete and submit documents, whether by mail or electronically, there’s an extensive workflow process that takes place inside the agency. Paper documents are printed and routed through intra-office delivery systems to multiple reviewers before being filed. While documents are being processed internally, citizens are stuck in a painful waiting period. They must wait and see whether or not they qualify for a medical or educational benefits, social services or critical government programs, and they have few ways of checking in on progress. “For most organizations, the foundation really is missing around digitizing forms and documents,” Jeff Stanier, Director of Product Management for Adobe Experience Manager Forms, said while presenting at the 2017 Adobe Digital Government Symposium.
However, several agencies have taken steps to improve these cumbersome interactions by transitioning from manual, paperbased processes to digital experiences that empower citizens to quickly serve themselves, Stanier said. They’ve learned from decades of service that paper forms are expensive to deliver, difficult to update and time-consuming to process, which leads to a growing backlog and frustrated citizens. The key is understanding citizen needs and whether your agency’s processes make it harder or easier for employees to meet those needs. Agencies also must consider how much it costs to forgo digitization, in terms of customer satisfaction, employee engagement, time and money. To better understand why government agencies need to invest in digital transformation, what challenges they face, and how next-gen digitized forms can drastically improve government operations, GovLoop partnered with Adobe to gain insights. In this report, you’ll hear from Stanier and Richard Calentine, Senior Value Engineer for Adobe Systems Federal. In this GovLoop resource, we build the case for why this change is needed and how you can better understand the benefits that come from investing in better digital experiences. To start things off, let’s review some of the inevitable challenges that come from relying on paper forms.
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A Path Forward for Government Forms Documents are the lifeblood of government. Employees depend on them to share information with citizens, collect feedback, and run multibillion-dollar government programs. Citizens rely on documents to stay informed, enroll in services and benefit programs, and correspond with local and federal officials. But these citizen-to-government interactions can easily break down. Data can be siloed across channels, internal workflows may not be designed to handle complex transactions, and agency operations are often supported by legacy technology. To overcome these barriers, a growing number of agencies are investing in digital service teams to modernize legacy IT and processes. They are also redesigning online applications and websites with citizens in mind. They’re taking the time to understand the pain points that applicants face when trying to access forms on mobile devices or check the status of their application and understand next steps in the process. “For a lot of people, the way they are connecting to their government is strictly on their mobile phone,” Stanier said. Yet, according to analytics.usa.gov, a federal website that provides a snapshot of how people are interacting with government online, three of the top five file downloads — over 45,000 individual downloads between them on Aug. 29 alone — were PDF forms. A large percentage of these will need to be printed and filled out manually. Stanier challenged agencies to think through their workflows and posed this question: When your agency receives a form from a citizen, what are you doing with it? From there, he asked them to consider whether they have an organized workflow to help route forms and data to the right people, get the right people to sign off on documents and respond accordingly. Sometimes that response may require a follow-up visit with applicants who have submitted information or applied for a service.
The public expects their interactions with government to be seamless, effortless and transparent, much like their dealings with private companies. Agencies must keep in mind that “citizens are customers and customers are citizens,” Stanier said. The most successful organizations remove stumbling blocks that hinder seamless customer interactions, and they work quickly to rectify issues. As agencies maintain more documents, they need solutions to easily manage, update and route information without it turning into a big ordeal. These types of investments will have major payoffs for citizens and the employees who serve them. When employees can’t easily navigate online forms and processes, they look for workarounds — whether calling an agency or visiting an office in person. These inconveniences on the customer translate into added work for employees, who are often working to do more with less. “Creating a good experience, allowing that person to get through the processes they need to is really key,” Stanier said. “Once you do that, then you start driving down costs.” In short, greater experiences lead to better efficiencies, which reduce costs. And in this era of tighter budgets, agencies are looking for ways to save. So why not make those improvements sooner rather than later? If you’re not quite sure how to make the business case for investing in your agency’s digital workflow, you’re not alone. In a following section, we break down a return-oninvestment calculation for digitized forms and the tangible benefits that come from adopting nextgeneration processes.
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“Creating a good experience, allowing that person to get through the processes they need to is really key. Once you do that, then you start driving down costs.” JEFF STANIER, Director of Product Management for Adobe Experience Manager Forms
The Benefits of Next-Generation Digitized Forms In a perfect world, the documents you manage today would be digital, mobile, secure, trackable, easy-to-use and intuitive. It almost sounds too good to be true — yet this is all possible with next-generation digitized forms. They are dynamic documents that are often part of a larger digital program that enables agencies to easily streamline operations. For starters, next-gen digitized forms should be clear and concise and easily adaptive to any screen and platform, including websites and mobile apps. One of the most convenient features for citizens is that these forms can be easily started and stopped, allowing a user to pick up where they left off. They are also able to sign, accept and approve any changes to the document. Security and compliance is another key feature. For government agencies, data security is top of mind, and government officials are often the gatekeepers of very sensitive data and personally identifiable information. Citizen-government relationships hinge on trust, and the public
must be confident that their personal information is kept secure. The risk of mishandling information greatly increases when documents are managed through manual processes that are not well-defined or tracked. Paper forms can be forgotten in the printer, left in the backseat of a taxi or improperly disposed of, making them perfect targets for identity theft or fraud. A strong digital workflow considers the government’s security and compliance requirements and enforces them through automation. That means customer data isn’t floating around in printed or electronic formats. One way to address this issue is by centralizing citizen data and making it available electronically to the right people at the right time. Although cross-channel functionality, security and compliance, and operational efficiency are all strong reasons for digitizing your work processes, you can’t have a serious conversation about making these investments without discussing costs.
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Measuring the ROI To better understand what paper-based processes are costing your agency, Adobe’s Calentine highlighted six focus areas that agencies can use to calculate the financial value of optimizing workforce processes through digital forms, workflows and signatures.
This includes the number of forms — internal and external — that are submitted to your agency every year, including travel expenses and onboarding documents and forms submitted by citizens. Other key metrics to consider here are the average hourly rate for employees who complete and process forms, and the average hourly wage for employees who sign documents.
Manual workflow processing effort
Agencies must factor in the percentage of form submissions that are processed and routed manually, and the average length of time it takes to route submitted forms manually. This may only take a few minutes per form, but the time quickly accumulates when there are many forms.
Error correction and manual updates effort
Agencies should look at the percentage of form submissions that are incorrect and require manual updates, as well as the average length of time it takes to manually update form submission errors.
Data re-key effort
This can be a huge undertaking for agencies that gather information on paper and re-enter that information into an electronic system. When considering these costs, agencies should measure the percentage of form submissions that need data rekeying, and the average length of time it takes to complete each submission.
Paper processing costs
Agencies should estimate the costs of printing, scanning, postage and archiving for each form that gets submitted.
Signature cycle time
What is the average number of signatures needed per form submitted, and what is the length of time to review and sign those documents? It may take employees only five or 10 minutes to do this, but there are often substantial delays when routing documents between individuals. It could take weeks to get all the relevant signatures, especially if signers are out of the office and documents are sitting in their inboxes.
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Adobe offers a nifty online calculator to sum up all these costs and calculate potential savings. Even if you don’t have exact numbers, this tool can help to provide a ballpark figure. The bottom line is that digitizing saves time and money. In fact, Adobe has found that in-person processes are 42 times more costly than digital processes. But when estimating the financial benefit of digital workflows, it’s important to understand both the business value and the personal value, Calentine said. From a business standpoint, here are some questions to answer when weighing the financial benefit of digitization: 1. What is the net financial change for my organization? 2. How will it benefit citizens? 3. How will it benefit employees? From a personal perspective, individuals think about what they have to gain from an organizational shift to digital processes. For example, will digital processes make my work more fulfilling or help me meet personal goals? When you add personal value and business value together, it will result in savings for your organization, Calentine said. For a full analysis, both pieces must be in place.
How Adobe Can Help Agencies are partnering with Adobe to make their forms secure, efficient and automated. Not only that, but e-signatures make it possible to securely sign any form and gain greater visibility and control over business transactions and documentation. A few areas where agencies are reaping big benefits from greater digitization include online enrollment processes, benefits applications and service requests. In particular, agencies are saving time and money by not re-keying data into systems from paper forms. But these digital services also increase efficiency, shrink backlogs, and empower agencies to securely serve citizens. Adobe was one of the first companies to be certified under the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP). FedRAMP, a governmentwide program, provides a baseline for risk management and authorization for cloudbased services. Among the features that Adobe offers is the ability to easily create standardized digital documents and work flows across programs and agencies. To maintain ongoing communications with citizens, Adobe solutions allow agencies to quickly create welcome and onboarding letters and ongoing notices to citizens enrolling in programs, and then route those documents to the right individuals.
“Eliminating manual, paperbased processes with Adobe Experience Manager Forms is a big enabler of business change for the county and a major benefit to the public” MICHAEL PROCTOR Chief Technical Architect, the County of San Diego
“Using Adobe Sign as part of our state’s eSign Services program, we eliminate much of the time previously spent preparing and routing documents. State personnel can sign with just a few clicks, so we can focus on state business and roll out new services faster.” TODD NACAPUY Chief Information Officer, State of Hawaii
Conclusion The combination of increasing expectations from citizens and the need to boost efficiencies makes next-gen digitized forms a priority for many agencies. The ability to reduce burdens on staff, streamline processes for citizens and save valuable time are all benefits that cannot be overlooked. The key is to understand what processes are in place and what pain points customers face while interacting with your agency. From there, you can calculate potential savings from digitizing your forms and work flows, and then get to work on finding a solution that meets your needs and budgetary requirements. Ultimately, digital forms allow agencies to do more with less and improve the overall citizen experience.
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Additional Resources Adobe Experience Manager Forms
Digital Savings Calculator
Adobe Experience Manager Forms Video
Adobe’s trusted and proven enterprise solutions enable next-generation digital government. We help government agencies modernize service delivery while reducing cost to serve, and processing time all while delivering remarkable digital experiences.
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To learn more visit www.adobe.com/ government.
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