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This post was updated in May 2023.

Everyone was saying the right things.

“We need a digital transformation in government!” “We want to go ‘digital first!’” “Things will run so smoothly when we get everything onto our computers!”

Your department implemented a government automation platform like Amanda or Accela. You did the user acceptance training. You held other training sessions. Things looked good.

Years passed. People used it (kind of). But now they’re saying different things.

“Why do I still have to print these forms?” “Transcribing this inspector’s notes takes forever.” “Exporting spreadsheets every week just to send them next door is a pain.”

Or what you heard at the last monthly financials meeting: “We have this expensive platform we’re paying license fees for, but we only use it as a glorified document repository. What are we doing with this?”

It’s time to review your government agency’s back-office investment and develop a modernization plan.

Clarify Your Objectives

A great place to start when reviewing your technology is to ask: “What are we trying to achieve?” Or, better yet, what were you trying to achieve when you set it up?

Here are common reasons agencies implement software:

  • Reduce wait times for processing applications (aka speed things up)
  • Make people’s jobs easier (aka do your job, not someone else’s)
  • Reduce unnecessary tasks and redundancies (aka get rid of annoyances that slow you down)
  • Improve customer service (aka make residents, business owners, and developers happy)

Have you achieved these objectives with your implementation? Note how you could be doing better to find solutions.

Determine Your Guiding Principles

Once you’ve clarified what you want to achieve with your software, set a foundation for how you’ll do it with a list of guiding principles. Here are some favorites from our clients:

  • Always be customer focused. Each decision should consider what users want or need and how to give them the most positive experience.
  • Use technology to improve things. Improve how things work by solving problems like bottlenecks and red tape.
  • Be collaborative. Involve everyone who will be affected to make the best changes and avoid causing other problems.

Steps to Modernize Your Existing Software

Which technology and processes do you have now, and how can you improve or use them better? Consider these tips.

Make Sure the System Is Set Up to Function as Needed

It’s common for people to use software in a very basic way, versus building new habits and systems that take full advantage of every feature. Maybe a new record is being set up for every case file that comes to the front desk, but are the details in the proper fields, or are employees just copying and pasting everything into the general comments field?

Does your team use the inspection checklists? Is the citizen portal active so the public can submit applications online? Are employees generating permits and reports from the system using the data you’ve collected, or are they still copy-pasting info into the old Microsoft Word templates?

Tip: For a refresher on the features you could be using, review the sales website for your software—they always list the key benefits!

Upgrade Your Software

There’s likely a newer version of your platform. If you haven’t, take advantage of the opportunity to upgrade to ensure you can access the latest features for usability and security.

As a bonus, staying on top of the latest version will help avoid problems as the software ages. The longer you wait between versions, the more complex the upgrading process is. Significant differences in code and functionality can mean a more costly upgrade project and a steeper learning curve for users when the new features become available.

Integrate Multiple Systems

Sometimes you don’t need new software to add new features—all you need is for your existing applications to talk to each other.

For example, if you have an electronic document management system (EDMS) but don’t use it to house files related to your permit processes, you can connect the back-office and the EDMS. That way, documents produced by the back office will automatically be stored in the organization-wide EDMS, reducing the need to download and email files.

Or maybe the assessment office maintains your “record of truth” for property information, and you manually download the list from their system each week to upload it to your permitting application. By creating an integration, this happens automatically, so the files are always up to date in both systems and at your fingertips when you need them.

See Which Services You Can Put Online for the Public

People expect to access all information and services using their computers or smartphones. Government is no exception, and fortunately, providing public access can improve service levels and even enhance trust in government.

Going fully digital can be daunting, but you don’t have to start with a full-fledged citizen portal (although that should be your eventual goal). You can start small, perhaps by setting up a few online application forms from just one department. Learn lessons from this first step and plan for future departments and services. Online access saves a lot of time and frustration for people—your team included.

Identify Where Training Could Benefit Your Team

Your software vendor likely provided training when they implemented the system, but people forget things, build new habits, or are replaced by new people. Refreshing your team’s expertise in the software is a powerful way to maximize your initial investment.

Preparing for and going through the training has the benefit of uncovering issues and improvements. Are there features people aren’t using or are using incorrectly? Could staff from other departments get access to reduce confusion or duplication of effort? Do some users have useful shortcuts or tricks that would help others?

Tip: Consider following a “train the trainer” approach, as teaching colleagues is a great way for primary users to retain skills that unlock the power of the software.

Identify Where Stakeholders Can Be Involved

Look at the steps in your modernization plan and note everyone who touches or is affected by the system. The more closely you engage users, the fewer problems you’ll have when changes occur. That’s because they’ll have identified potential problems and will understand how the system can work for them, making them more likely to “champion” it and use it correctly.

Give your team ownership in the project, and they’ll make it better.

Tip: Contact other departments that may have similar needs/projects. You could work together to save money and share ideas.

Plan For Testing and Schedule It Well in Advance

Testing is critical for software implementation success, but only if done properly and thoroughly.

Don’t just delegate testing to an IT person or intern. They’re great for ensuring the system isn’t broken, but it’s the users—the department leads and frontline staff—who will notice if a field has the wrong label or a process is missing steps.

Schedule testing in advance to ensure people are prepared and available. Provide a clear process (or “test cases”) for them to follow.

Tip: Include some testing as part of the training process. It makes the best use of people’s time and helps identify problems and solutions before go-live.

Allow For a Transition Period

If you’re implementing significant changes, let folks occasionally “fall back” on paper versions or old processes—but set a deadline to move to the new, digital-first system. During the transition, have check-in points to encourage folks to use the updated system.

What Does Workload Automation Mean for Governments?

Workload automation means improved operational efficiency for federal, state, and local governments. Streamlined tasks mean agencies can do more with less manual output.

Governments must assess their priorities in order to move forward with the right version of workload automation.

How Can Vision33 Help?

Vision33 has experience working with many types of agencies over many years, which means we’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t for government modernization efforts.

Our strength is identifying solutions that match the problem (versus a one-size-fits-all approach) and mapping out the steps to implement the solution so everyone is engaged and happy. We also have a dedicated team of software experts and coders who can implement your customized solution, rather than handing it to you with a “Good luck!”

If you’re ready to modernize your agency’s existing processes or start your digital transformation journey from scratch, let us partner with you. We’ll share our expertise to develop a custom plan—and then help you execute it.

Looking to take your government modernization strategy to the next level? Please get in touch!