A Digital Path Forward for Government Forms

This blog post is an excerpt from GovLoop's recent industry perspective, "Increasing Efficiency in Government With Digitized Forms." Download the full report here

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,” said Jeff Stanier, Director of Product Management for Adobe Experience Manager Forms, said while presenting at the 2017 Adobe Digital Government Symposium.

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?

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