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How COVID-19 Made the Air Force More Paperless

When COVID-19 reached the U.S., the Air Force faced a bureaucratic nightmare – how could all its personnel telework without creating mountains of paper documents?

According to Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Frank Konieczny, the answer is digital transformation. Speaking Wednesday, Konieczny said the Air Force is using technology to change its culture and enter a future with less paper.

“You can’t legally work without a telework agreement,” he said of the Air Force’s telework policy during GovLoop’s latest virtual summit. “We’re trying to use digital processes to improve how we’re working.”

Konieczny’s role is in the Air Force’s Office of the Deputy Chief Information Officer (CIO), a part of the Secretary’s Office.

Before America’s coronavirus pandemic began, the Air Force was striving for a digital enterprise that would provide employees with the right devices to access applications anywhere, anytime worldwide.

But COVID-19 has changed the Air Force’s priorities by making connectivity, telework and digital collaboration more important than before.

As Konieczny sees it, the crisis might permanently make the Air Force a more digital, distributed agency.

“I think it is going to stick,” he said of the shift to telework. “It’s convenient. As we progress, the culture is changing.”

Subsequently, the Air Force’s recent interest in boosting telework has made its reliance on physical forms for teleworking, procuring new devices and other operations seem outdated.

Now, the Air Force is embracing tools that let its workforce sign documents and keep them flowing agencywide electronically.

“It is ridiculous you might need a wet signature on something,” Konieczny said of ink. “Routing paper is not the way to go, not anymore. It just takes too long. Things get lost.”

Paperless agencies have many advantages over their more traditional peers. First, they save valuable budget dollars that were once spent on paper. Second, they also reduce the time and energy workers spend transferring documents agencywide. Third, they can boost security by storing sensitive data in digital platforms that meet all the latest compliance standards. Fourth, eliminating paper erases waste that hurts the environment.

“A lot of answers come out when you start looking at the processes and the documents you have,” Wendy Blatt, Regional Vice President, DocuSign, State and Local Team said. DocuSign provides electronic agreement management solutions. “People sometimes assume they can’t do something because it is just the way things have been done so long.”

According to Blatt, agencies that digitize get documents signed 23 days faster on average than those who don’t. Furthermore, agencies save an average of $36 per digital document, and most also see their employees’ productivity increase 42%.

Konieczny said agencies looking to follow the Air Force’s lead should focus on what problems they have and how solving them with digital tools might save energy and funding.

“People don’t like to do this because you shine a bright light on the status quo,” he said. “If you save money and time, you’ll be a hero.”

Don’t miss out on other virtual learning opportunities. Pre-register for GovLoop’s remaining 2020 virtual summits today.

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