Digitize Your Services: Stage 4 – Automate
This post is part 4 of 5 in a series about digitizing government services.
In our previous posts, we’ve talked a lot about how digitizing your services benefits the residents in your community. When you automate processes, this has big gains for both the households and businesses that access local government services, as well as the public servants that manage those services.
Automating a government workflow has several benefits. When you take steps to automate, you:
- Save staff the time it takes to manually perform simple, common tasks.
- Reduce human error, especially for tasks that include data entry.
- Track interactions so team members can see the status of a request, and view the last interaction with a constituent. This way, anyone in an agency can answer a citizen request, and staff members can take time off without worrying about stalling a process.
- Provide better service and increase transparency to constituents by automatically and immediately sending confirmation emails or updates about the status of their request.
Where to Start
Certainly, not every task is a good candidate for automation. It takes the daily effort of thousands of public servants to keep local government running smoothly and supporting people in need. Automation doesn’t replace that effort – it helps enable staff to focus on the issues that require their expertise.
When you think about which parts of a process to automate, start by asking questions about your process:
- Which actions are the same almost every time?
- Do some actions include basic sorting? Is a digital form already collecting all the information needed to categorize responses?
- Does a handoff between staff members, agencies, or vendors take place? Can this process go more smoothly, or be tracked better?
- What are the key points when a constituent should be informed? What kinds of inbound requests for information are you receiving most commonly?
How to Automate
Automation will help your team move through established workflows more quickly, and it can also help track processes that are already taking place. Tools that assist with automation can include cloud-based project management software, like Basecamp or Asana, or even simple tools like Google Sheets that allow you to track submissions in a single place. Government-specific tools like Accela and CityBase digital services can help manage staff workflows and constituent interactions.
Many government source systems include some automation functionality. Ask your IT department to make sure you’re using all the tools available to you. Technologists can also create custom middleware between your front-end interface and your database or other source system.
What Automation Looks Like
A good example is automating property services. For instance, a property owner must submit a county government form if they want to appeal their property value assessment. Since you’ve already put that form online and integrated it to the appropriate database, you can automate steps in the workflow.
In an automated Assessment Appeal workflow, once a person submits an appeal, it is automatically tagged as “In Review.” This triggers an automated message to the constituent, letting them know their appeal is in review. When the assigned staff member determines all evidence is in order, they can change the status to “Schedule Preliminary Meeting,” which automatically assigns the appropriate staff member, and so on. If a person forgot to attach necessary documentation, your digital form can automatically let them know more evidence is needed. Steps like these can cut out days or weeks of turnaround time spent reviewing submissions and requesting documentation.
Also published on Medium.