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From car companies and soda vendors to even Dilbert comics, everyone is talking about digital transformation. But how do we define it in the government context?

Join Senior Government Consultant Kevin Albrecht and former CIO Paul Gorman as they chat about “the CIO’s worst nightmare,” the importance of dynamic, responsive forms management and how it all shapes an experience from staff to constituent.

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Kevin Ledgister: Welcome to the Paperless Productivity podcast where we have experts give you the insights, knowhow, and resources to help you transform your workplace from paper to digital and making your work life better at the same time.

Thanks for joining us today. My name is Kevin Ledgister, your host and today we’re discussing government trends in information technology. With me today is Kevin Albrecht, who is a Senior Customer Advisor for government at Hyland Software and also Paul Gorman, who is a former CIO for several government agencies and also a former colleague of Kevin Albrecht and is now working with state agencies for ImageSoft. So welcome Kevin and Paul.

Paul Gorman: Thank you.
Kevin Albrecht: Thanks for having us.
Kevin L.: Thanks for being on the call today. Kevin, I’ll start with you. One of the hottest trends right now is digital transformation and everybody’s talking about it. It’s a big buzzword that’s out there and everyone is using this term from soda machine makers to enterprise software vendors, but when it comes to the government space I think maybe we can put a little bit more definition around that. So can you just share with our listeners, what does that mean for you in your context and with the different government agencies and then Paul, maybe you can share with us from a CIO perspective what some of that means as well?
Kevin A.: Yeah absolutely. You’re exactly right, digital transformation means all kinds of different things, right? We see car companies talking about it, copier companies, soda companies and with us, in our space and especially in government, I see digital transformation really boiling down to how do you take maybe the less efficient methods of government processes or dealing with constituents and moving them into something that is well, digital, and much more efficient.

It can be something as simple as, we will always have to accept paper documents. That’s just going to have to happen, and government agencies are going to have to receive that. But that doesn’t mean that we have to then manage the evaluation and the sharing of those documents in a manual manner. We can transform them into something digital and add workflow and process improvements to it. So it’s really figuring out what your specific pain point is, whether that’s capturing information or process automation or case management analytics. Really identifying that for your agency and then seeing what changes you need to make to bring efficiency.

Paul: I am reminded however of the Dilbert comic strip, the one where the engineers were playing Buzzword Bingo, it has become a bit of a buzzword and consequently, people are using it and basically talking past each other so that they’re not really meaning the same thing.

When I was a CIO 20 years ago, we had an aspirational mission statement… with any system anywhere at any time. And for us, that meant we needed to be able to have our systems accessible by our staff at anytime from anywhere. That was all of course getting our systems web-based really. Today I would want to expand that; I would want it to be any content, anywhere on any device. And for me, I think for a government agency, if I were the CIO sitting in a government agency, digital transformation would be the ability of my agency to conduct our business from anywhere. And for that you would need content, processes and collaboration essentially to be ubiquitous to the constituents that you’re serving. We might not get there right away, it’s aspirational.

Kevin A.: I think it’s finding those. I mean that’s a great point Paul and finding those processes that are really a hindrance to what your agency’s mission is. I was talking with one customer and just, is in a city government and they had two full-time people that pretty much spent their entire jobs processing city employee uniform and equipment requests and they were doing it through email and through spreadsheets. And they went through and created their own work you have, their own method of bringing automation to that and increasing visibility, auditability, responsibility to it. And they did that themselves and found something that was really an inefficient thing and they wouldn’t go out and necessarily Google digital transformation for uniform processing requests, but they were able to identify this pain point and bring themselves, not only a lot more efficiency but a great deal of money-saving too.
Paul: That’s going to be behind virtually any effort for digital transformation, is the recognition that without it, there’s two things that you’re doing. One, you’re probably spending more money, effort and time on a process than you need to. And secondly, you’re not providing great service to the people who are using that process via the case of the uniforms, whether its internal customers or constituents.
Kevin A.: Paul, I’d be interested in your background as a CIO and over the last 20 years, the things that you’ve seen. When we’re talking about digital transformation I wonder, especially in the realm of a CIO, I find that beyond that, even things like security are even more important. They’re like, okay yeah, let’s bring some efficiencies into this, but that doesn’t mean anything if it’s not secure.

And I think sometimes we can point out, well when you have file folders of papers sitting on a shelf. That’s completely not secure although it might not be hacked by foreign adversaries. But there’s no auditability, there’s no reporting on it. But what are your thoughts about how security fits in with digital transformation?

Paul: When you look at security today the CIO’s nightmare is a security breach in an agency they’re responsible for. That is the ultimate nightmare. And the physical files are no more secure than the security around whatever you’re building is.

I had an employee a number of years ago, was in an auto accident and was carrying loan files in the back of the truck and the loan files wound up all over the road. That was a major incident for us. We had to figure out what loans were affected, contact the customers, it’s not a very pleasant experience. And if you can’t control the information and have auditability of that information, you’re really not the one, you can’t be responsible for it. You have no way to be responsible for it.

Having remote staff and staff working out of the office increasingly makes it a requirement that you digitize the content that they’re working with. You just cannot afford to have remote staff carrying files through the state.

Kevin A.: I think that’s one of those that even I have talked about too in the past right, that it’s not about securing that page, it’s the content that’s on that page. No one’s looking for a piece of paper. It’s what’s on there and so bringing security around that content, right? Who has access to certain information, certain types of documents based on their role or department and understanding even, or what actions they can take on that. That’s something that you just can’t provide that type of security when you’re not doing things in a digital way.

A lot of the times we’re asked about the need for different types of certifications, and there seems to be a desire like there’s just one master type of software certification that covers them all. What are some of the certifications that you’ve run into or do you have kind of any advice for anybody of what they should be looking at?

Paul: I think if you’re utilizing systems today that have unencrypted content, you’re committing, well I’ll call it digital malpractice, continuing to utilize systems that you know are insecure because the content at rest and the content in motion is not encrypted.

I mean frankly I think it should be an audit fine. And I think eventually that’s going to start becoming an audit finding. I just don’t believe at this point that the legitimate excuse in any level of government not to understand the risk and the likelihood of compromise.

Kevin A.: Rolling into one of these other trends that we see all the time is a need for shared services across government agencies. They have so many siloed different systems that especially the IT Department then has to keep track of making sure they’re upgraded, keeping the security up to date in all these different systems rather than using shared services in one instance of a software across multiple agencies.
Paul: Yeah, that’s a very valid point. But I would add this, if you are the IT decision-maker, you owe it to your career at this point to initiate a shared services strategy.

The savings are essentially, they’re career-enhancing. Literally, the benefits are obvious, as you said the single platform that’s secure, standardized development environment, you could actually implement now rapid solution developments, platforms like OnBase, you have lower operating costs, lower support costs. I mean you wind up being essentially a financial superstar for the agency if you can put together that strategy.

Kevin A.: And lots of times when we talk about things, you mentioned OnBase and having a shared instance, it gives you that complete view of what’s going on.

So whether you’re managing a process like constituents applying for a benefit or you’re doing asset management, like keeping track of the county snowplows. When you have all that content in one shared system and you’re able to then integrate on the backend with whatever relevant backend system there is, you’re not having to log in to different systems, you need to see the fraud investigation of a constituent or you just need to look into the processing of their different applications or whatever that might be. You can do it seamlessly and again when we talk about security, how these things are all tied together, how you’re able to look at the content in the context that you need to see it and not going in there logging in to certainly multiple systems or having to walk to another building to open a file cabinet to pull the information that you’re looking for.

Paul: Yeah, that’s a given. I see shared services for any time that you can simplify the environment, you reduce your security profile, you have the benefit from standardization. I mean training for your IT support staff. Just something as simple as that, if you can train people on a single platform, they’re interchangeable. You have more resources available to throw at a problem and the ability to spread your resources, if you will, thinner.
Kevin A.: Yeah and that’s the thing when you find the well executing IT departments that are able to roll OnBase out into other lines of businesses. I mean you and I have both talked with customers out there, we had no idea that we were being used in some lines of business, right? There was one city I was talking to that we’re used in their golf course maintenance. I still don’t fully understand what we’re doing there, but they do. They identified this pain point and rather than having the parks and rec department go buy a new system, they leveraged shared services to go work up a workflow application to meet this kind of niche pain points that they found.
Paul: And that’s a valid point because if you can eliminate those point solutions you actually eliminate future silos. A point solution is just a silo waiting to happen.
Kevin A.: Yeah, that’s true and constituents, they never really understand, will accept how this information of theirs can reside all over the place. The true kind of future of constituent experience is no wrong door, and I certainly shouldn’t have to submit to you the same information over and over. When you have my birth certificate or you have the latest assessment of my home, whatever that is, constituents now are expecting you to hold onto that and to find it and not keep asking me to give it to you over and over again.
Paul: I would say this though no one sets out to create systems and processes that deliver poor service to constituents. I would assert it happens because issues are being misdiagnosed. The most common mistake, I don’t know what you’ve seen, but the most common mistake I’ve seen is replacing a legacy system with a point solution and the agency leadership knows the legacy system’s the problem, but they don’t take the time to understand all the ways that it’s failing them.

And the new point solution might solve some of the IT problems, but they wind up creating an information silo or continuing an information silo. And from that constituent service issues are going to develop.

Kevin A.: Yeah, when this information is siloed like this or not to mention just the inherent cost of then needing to learn an entire new system and you have these all across government, in the end it’s not providing that ultimate mission of an agency. You know that when they’re just trying to solve pain points in a one-off manner with one-off pieces of technology, it’s completely inefficient and also takes them away from the mission that that agency has every day.

When I say that, someone does, with the department of transportation and they’re keeping track of maintenance on bridges, their job every day isn’t to go just do maintenance on bridges or do bridge inspections. Their job is to keep the road safe. That’s why they go to work every day. So when they’re messing with kind of siloed, disparate places of information that just slows them down and prohibits them from doing their job as efficiently as they could.

Paul: If you were to write them down, what would you say were the characteristics of a great constituent focus system?
Kevin A.: Well, I’d say the first kind of that, that no wrong door, where I can submit the information in whichever way that I need to do it. So if that means that I’m 80 years old and I am going to come into a lobby that this system is able to allow it to scan and capture my information from the lobby. If it means that maybe I’m Generation Z and I want to have a responsive form at a web portal that provides me that user experience that I now expect, I’d want to have that.

But then also things looking like mobile applications where maybe someone’s not filling out nine pages of content on their phone, but simply being able to do things like notifying your government agency that there’s been a change of address.

I got married and capturing a picture of my marriage certificate and there’s been a change of my name or things like that. Really allowing me as a constituent to interact with you in the way that’s most comfortable for me, but also allows you to provide that digital transformation, those process enhancements on the backend.

Paul: I mean you hit every one of the high points that I had in my head, especially that no wrong door because if what you’re left with is only a digital format, you’re going to leave some of your constituents behind and let’s not make things perfect for Generation Z but impossible for the boomers.
Kevin A.: Yeah absolutely. Doing things like even having someone receive an email notification that your application’s been received. I mean something as simple as that, as them knowing yes, you have it and that I don’t have to call and waste caseworkers time answering simple questions. We want caseworkers to have their time freed up to be handling maybe emergency type situations or more complicated cases.

When I always say that the ultimate in a digital transformation for content services is you don’t want your workers spending time processing cases where everything is correct. If they’ve gone through and everyone has provided what they needed and they qualify for the program or that everything is in order and they spend a bunch of time processing that, that time often is wasted. What we want to be able to do is process, check those things electronically and digitally and get it to a final point where maybe someone’s just signing off and then our workers can look at the more complicated things that need human touch and human eyes.

Paul: Fantastic. One of the things you had mentioned earlier with forms, I mean we could have an entire podcast discussion about nothing but forms.

I think for me the reason I think forms create problems for government agencies is that agencies don’t plan on the differences between forms.

Not all forms are alike, so it’s unlikely that a single form tool is ever going to solve all of your form problems. So for me, the first thing you got to figure out is what is the purpose for the form and then gather data to transmit data. Are you capturing process results? Are you driving a process? Are you logging work? I mean I could keep going on and on about this.

But for me the biggest differences are between the internal focus, the external focus, internally controlled, externally controlled but also process-connected versus data-connected or some mixture of the two.

Kevin A.: I would even say breaking it down to forms. A huge problem agencies face is the lack of control they have with the wrong form being out there. Someone will make a change to a form, or there’ll be a new… there’ll be a change to a policy, and they’ll have paper versions of forms all over the place. Or even a lot of government agencies [inaudible 00:19:47] are required to provide forms in multiple languages so they have to go and pre-print all of this content and have it available all the time. And then God forbid if something changes on that form or there’s a new policy or a new calculation or something, that’s all wasted. So having a dynamic and responsive form, not only available on your portal or for someone to print out if that’s how they’re more comfortable but even using something like OnBase for managing the creation and storage over those forms. Just so that that is under control and you don’t have people doing things on their own and not in a centralized manner.
Paul: I mean this is a super complex subject, but I think I’ve got a few simple suggestions. You’ve mentioned one of them. I mean it’s control of the form, you need to make that a critical criteria of your foreign product. Whatever form product you’re doing, whether it’s OnBase or something else, if you can’t control the form and the location of the form, how the form is going to be used, then that product fails for you.

If you need to feed databases, common-sense thing. If the purpose of this form is to feed an internal database, well you better have a form product that allows you to extract form data.

I’ve seen situations where that was indeed the purpose of the form and the form product they chose didn’t let them do that. If you need to capture and preserve signatures as evidence, the chances are very good your form product had probably not be revisable. I mean you have to control the form after somebody signed it. There’s so much to this.

Your legal requirements probably need to be checked before you pick a form product. Putting on my lawyer’s hat for just a second, you could actually put a form product in place that would be a violation of the laws surrounding the purpose of the form. Not to put too fine a point on it, but that could probably happen even today. So yeah, I liked the idea of having multiple form products to address the different types and purposes of the forms that you’re working with.

You mentioned OnBase, OnBase actually does that.

Kevin A.: I think like you’d said, extracting that content from a form and taking some sort of case management to workflow action on it.

I always think of things like simply someone submitting an application or a form to a government agency and a value in if they provide a Zip Code that’s outside of our city or county or the state, routing that maybe to somewhere initially right away. That should be weird if someone maybe is applying for a public assistance program or some sort of program and they don’t even live in our county, they don’t even live in our state. Why do we move that somewhere so someone can immediately look at it?

Or knowing, things like having document deficiency checklists. If someone submitted a form and hasn’t provided proof of income or proof of their identity or proof of residence or their family information from the beginning, let’s know that right away so that we can then communicate with that applicant that they haven’t given us everything that they weighted rather than in a paper format that sits in its folder at the bottom until it works its way up to the top, only for a caseworker then to take a look at it and go, oh well this looks like they don’t even live here. Or they should have submitted this to a different county or they make way too much money, there’s no way they qualify.

Paul: Yeah, very good.
Kevin L.: Wow, these are fantastic points guys. I love this discussion, and I think the salient points that you guys are making from considering how things work internally to from a customer, a constituent perspective in terms of what’s your experience like, which is really the biggest part of all this, is we want to make the constituent experience really, really good. And you guys have given us some great examples here.

Guys, I think our listeners will love this discussion. We’d love to have you guys back on again. I think that we could talk about forms a little bit more or have some other topics. And for those of you who are listening to this podcast, if you want more information you can certainly go and check out our blog at blog.imagesoftinc.com, that’s blog.imagesoftinc.com and thank you everyone for joining us today. And if you haven’t already done so, be sure to subscribe to the Paperless Productivity podcast where we tackle some of the biggest paper-based pain points facing organizations today. We’ll see you next time.

Thanks again for joining us on this podcast and if you haven’t already done so, be sure to subscribe to Paperless Productivity where we tackle some of the biggest paper-based pain points facing organizations today. We’ll see you next time.