Catherine Geanuracos
March 14, 2020

4 changes to plan for when you move from paper or PDF workflows to digital services

Constituents and businesses everywhere expect government to be available online, especially with the current global health crisis. They want to access digital government services the same way they’re used to shopping in 2020:

  • 24/7
  • Via smartphone or computer
  • With self-service options

So governments across the country are moving their services online. And now with the rapidly changing impact of COVID-19, government teams may have to quickly transition to remote work and distributed teams. Bringing workflows online and into the cloud is one of the best ways to facilitate some of your local government staff being able to work from home. It’s possible to move workflows online quickly. Here are some things to pay attention to when you decide to take a workflow (a process such as licensing, request, or permitting) and put it online:

  1. Change what you ask: You may need to (or want to!) ask more, fewer, or different questions than were on your paper or PDF form(s).  Many times government services have been running the same way for a long time, and until you decide to bring them online, nobody has had the time or energy to think about whether things are running as efficiently as they should. When you bring a workflow online, if you’re setting up that workflow, you have the opportunity to think about each question that is being asked (and when you’re testing, whether there’s information that would be useful that’s missing.) We like to recommend that people look at their workflows and think about whether all the information that’s currently being collected is useful to someone… if not, take it out! 
  2. Change who you ask: Digital workflows allow for more logic and different paths through the same process.  For example, you can streamline the process and ask only a few questions for a basic home occupancy permit, but require a large, complex construction project to provide a lot more information. That shows respect for your applicants, and helps make your staff time more efficient too.
  3. Change when staff get involved: It’s a great opportunity to think through who really “needs to know.”  Lots of times on government forms there is a whole long list of required signatures at the bottom.  Bringing a workflow online is a good time to evaluate whether all those people really need to review - and more importantly, at what STEP in the workflow they should review. Perhaps a junior staffer can do an initial review, and save a more senior person’s time for later on in the workflow, when things are more complete. And having built-in completeness checks online means that forms aren’t submitted with incomplete information, which makes review a lot easier. 
  4. Change multiple forms into one:  We find it’s very common that governments have traditionally had people fill out multiple forms with basically the same information on them, and with online workflows that’s often not necessary. For example, many communities have a standard business license, a separate restaurant and liquor license, and a separate amusement license. With a “smart” online workflow, you can combine all those forms into one workflow, and make sure you get all the information you need without people having to fill out the same information 3x.

Our team at CityGrows has watched many different types of processes move online, and we’re always here to help your team think through some of the questions that come up with transitioning to working together online.  If you’re ready to move more of your government’s work online, schedule a demo with our team and we’ll help you think through the process and show you how other governments have made the transition quickly and cost-effectively.


Catherine Geanuracos

CEO and Co-Founder of CityGrows. Dedicated to transforming government technology and helping local governments provide better service and do more with less. Former VP of City of Los Angeles Innovation and Performance Commission, co-founder of LA's Code for America Brigade Hack for LA. Catherine is the Chair of the Board for CicLAvia, north America's largest open streets bicycle events. She's based in Silver Lake in Los Angeles.

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