It’s never been easier for governments to go digital.
Bringing your government’s processes online doesn’t have to be terrifying.
A digital government frees up staff to focus on more complex problems, offers a better experience for constituents, and creates new possibilities for engagement.
The good news: In the past decade, SaaS companies have made the process of “going digital” affordable and easy, saving you more time and money as you streamline internal operations and engagement with constituents.
So, where do you start?
The Cost of Not Going Digital
Sure, “going digital” is a big project, but have you ever thought about the costs that pile up from your manual processes?
Let’s look at a typical example: Applying for a park permit
Peter wants to host a baseball tournament, and needs a permit for a field
He looks on the city website to ﬁnd out how to apply for a permit
The user experience is confusing; he can’t locate the information he needs
Peter calls City Hall to ask for a permit
A friendly staff member tells him how to download a PDF form from the website
Peter downloads the form, prints it, and ﬁlls it out by hand
Since he doesn’t have a fax machine and works during the week, he’s forced to mail the form to City Hall
Peter isn’t sure if his permit has been approved, or even received
He calls City Hall a few days later to conﬁrm that his baseball tournament is permitted
City Hall has to ﬁnd his paper application in their ﬁling cabinet before calling him back
After weeks of processing and uncertainty, Peter can ﬁnally host the tournament
What could this cost?
of wasted time from staff that could have been spent on other projects
wasted money for mail processing and receiving
lost revenue from other constituents that weren’t as motivated as Peter
loss in revenue and safety issues from non-permitted use of ball ﬁelds
decrease in customer satisfaction due to frustrated constituents
What does a digital government look like?
If Peter’s City Hall had gone digital, here’s how the process would have gone:
Peter wants to host a baseball tournament, and needs a permit for a ﬁeld
He accesses the city website from his cell phone and learns what forms and permits he needs
He ﬁnds the right form, ﬁlls it out, esigns, and sends payment online
Peter gets an automated conﬁrmation email with his approved permit attached
What impact does this have?
City Hall maintains electronic records of all applications and permits
City Hall can gather data on permit requests and use it to optimize processes
Revenue increases as more constituents take advantage of easy procedures
Staff can spend less time putting out ﬁres and more time improving operations
Tips for Going Digital
Think of it like an infrastructure upgrade.
Don’t shut down the entire interstate. Instead, repair the road lane by lane, following a careful strategy that still allows traffic to ﬂow.
Software providers can help you transition your processes incrementally, so work doesn’t need to grind to a halt while you make changes.
Start with the simple ﬁxes
Think of a form that should be simple, but that constituents hate to ﬁll out and City Hall employees hate to process.
Start by digitizing the simple, everyday forms, then move onto the longer, more complicated ones.
Make education and onboarding a top priority.
Old habits die hard. To ensure City Hall staff and constituents adopt new technologies, you have to make sure they understand them.
Teach staff members to use new processes well ahead of your go-live date, and run an outreach and onboarding campaign to inform constituents about the changes.
Automate, automate, automate.
Automation doesn’t mean City Hall employees will lose their jobs — it means they’ll have more time to do meaningful work.
Talk to your software provider about manual processes that might not require human hands, and listen to their ideas about making them automatic!
What about your website?
Your website is an extension of your city, and your constituents deserve a user-friendly online experience. Here are some basic best practices that every city website should follow.
The website design should conform to basic principles of good user experience (UX)
Information should be organized in an intuitive way
Forms should be easy to ﬁnd and complete right from the website (no printing or faxing required)
The site should be Section 508 compliant and accessible to people with disabilities
The site should behave similarly to the websites users are most familiar with (which are mostly private sector sites)
Pro tip: Going digital not in the budget? Consider the possibility of sharing the project with other departments or agencies. You can reduce costs while unifying the online government experience.
Online Communications 101
For ages, communication with constituents has happened mostly over the phone or in person. These days, however, people prefer to communicate online. Though each government entity has their own sets of rules and recommendations, these are global tips and ways for popular messaging platforms to provide better service.
How can governments use popular messaging platforms to provide better service?
Use automated emails to announce initiatives and improve public engagement
Segment email lists by neighborhood to target relevant announcements
Enable constituents to send non-urgent requests and questions via email
Make government more accessible with responsive City Hall accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram
Share important announcements and live-stream events to increase engagement
Use specialty social networks like Nextdoor to enable new kinds of interaction with constituents
Install a chatbot on your site that allows constituents to communicate directly without having to revert to email.
Organize and integrate communications through chatbots with other tools government staff is currently using
Give staff and citizens the ability to communicate directly about an application in one centralized place
What’s the next step?
Okay, you’re ready to go digital. You’re ready to stop requiring your constituents to print, fax and scan forms. You’re ready to stop burdening your staff with data entry and scanning. You’re ready. So what’s the next move?
First, you need to decide who’s going to help you with your digital initiative. Local governments currently have 3 main options.
Your IT Department
You might ask your IT department to help you go digital, but it will be a long, expensive process. Your IT team won’t be able to work on other important projects during development, and only IT staff will have the ability to create and adjust forms.
Point Solutions Providers
If you’ve got one major problem, you could choose one laser-targeted solution. Point solutions solve speciﬁc problems, but eventually you’ll have another process that needs updating, and you’ll need another point solution from another provider to make it happen.
It’s possible you already have a solution that could be manipulated to accomplish what you need. For example, your CMS might come with a form building tool. However, these legacy options usually have limited functionality and require IT input.
Take It to the Next Level
Imagine what your city could do if it was untethered from unnecessary paperwork and supported by a powerful website. Imagine how much more time your staff would have to accomplish important initiatives.
It doesn’t have to be a fantasy. SeamlessGov empowers governments all over the U.S. to go paperless and deliver better online services.
Will yours be next?
Schedule a “Going Digital” Consultation
Let us show you what SeamlessGov can do. Fill out the form and we will be in touch to schedule a customized demo.
Take the next step
Join the hundreds of governments that have already used our online form builder to convert their PDFs into online services.