Digital transformation isn’t quick nor simple.

Long before the pandemic, state agencies that had already started or were planning digitization initiatives understood getting it right takes a thoughtful strategy and well-executed approach. The required time and resources meant many agencies were slow to invest pre-COVID-19.

Then, the pandemic changed the world dramatically, solidifying the need to digitize.

While the quick move to work-from-home (and subsequent pivot back to the office for many) forced all agencies to understand what onsite and virtual work environments need to function well, there is still much for government to do to catch up with the private sector in realizing the massive cost savings and operational efficiencies of digital transformation. In fact, the path to digitization has gotten even trickier.

Government budgets will suffer severe shortfalls as a result of the pandemic’s economic effects. Amid tighter budgets, though, digitization’s efficiency and cost savings will be more critical than ever before.

Three Pockets of Innovation Excellence

Some government agencies are serving as pockets of innovation excellence despite digitization’s challenges. Here are three getting it right—with practical lessons to apply to your digital initiatives.

The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice’s Holistic Approach: Waiting Was Riskier Than Investing

1. The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice’s Holistic Approach: Waiting Was Riskier Than Investing

Problem:

Paper documents, related paper-based processes and legacy systems were costing the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) too much. As the volume of information and caseloads soared, an investment in digitization was the only way to control costs and scale while maintaining high levels of service. 

Hurricanes alone made a compelling argument to move forward quickly. In 2017, Hurricane Irma claimed an entire container of DJJ records. In October 2018, Hurricane Michael completely destroyed DJJ’s Panama City-area document storage warehouse and the 1,300 boxes of paper records inside. 

Solution:

DJJ began its digital-first initiative in February 2018, and with an expedited schedule in place, the entire effort could be completed within two years. In addition to digitizing paper content across departments, DJJ addressed paper-based processes by integrating Image API’s Axiom Pro document management tool with its HR platform, enabling staff to access documents in one system. DJJ also moved its finance and administration department from an outdated system to Axiom Pro. 

DJJ’s well-planned and forward-thinking strategy is already delivering positive, quantifiable results in its first stages, including:

  • Cost savings in warehouse storage, retrieval, shipping, and disposal as paper documents are digitized and moved out of off-site warehouses. Each warehouse also requires at least one full-time staff person to manage operations. Those resources could be eliminated or reallocated. 

By December 2021, DJJ expects to eliminate 33% of its warehouse-related costs, and 100% by early 2023. Long-term operational cost savings are estimated in the millions. 

  • Improved Service, with a 99% reduction in time to fulfill records requests—from days to minutes.
  • Reduced risk, with over 4,600 boxes of records now digitized and safe from hurricanes, flooding, and other natural disasters. In just six months, 10% of the total record count was digitized, with plans to eliminate 100% by 2023.
  • Increased productivity through greater agency-wide collaboration and process efficiency, enabling fewer resources to accomplish more, faster. 

How DJJ Got It Right:

DJJ took the decisive position that waiting to go digital would be far more costly than an early investment in it. The agency’s success going digital can be traced to the initiative’s roots. The internal DJJ team began the effort not as a standalone project, but a holistic approach focused on agency-wide goals of cost-cutting, greater efficiency, and better service delivery.

A key, early decision in a successful digital transformation is whether to manage it entirely with internal resources or bring on the expertise of a partner. DJJ determined it needed a trusted partner with proven experience and chose Image API.

Together, they mapped out a phased plan that allowed for small, rapid tests and high adoption. The approach demonstrated value quickly and built an early business case for a long-term digital vision. 

Hawaii’s Well-Planned Digital Initiative:  Delivering Massive Cost Savings and Essential Support for Work-from-Home

2. Hawaii’s Well-Planned Digital Initiative:  Delivering Massive Cost Savings and Essential Support for Work-from-Home

Problem:

In 2015, at the highest levels of Hawaii’s government, there was overwhelming consensus: The state’s agencies were using too much paper. With a forward-thinking, digital-first mindset, Governor David Ige began advocating to save millions of dollars in taxpayer money by digitizing.

Solution:

The Hawaii Modernization Initiative began in 2016. In 2018, the state rolled out a six-month paper-reduction program, led by the Office of Enterprise Technology Services (ETS). Nine state departments took part in the pilot, which encouraged adoption of new technology and transitioning from paper to electronic documents to reduce printing, filing, scanning, and other manual tasks.

This year, in the latest stage of upgrades to its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, Hawaii replaced its legacy time-and-leave system for an initial rollout of 800 employees. It previously upgraded several other human resources and payroll systems. After the remaining agencies are moved onto the new system, the state will make upgrades to its financial management system in a pilot before rolling out state-wide. 

While no one could have predicted the pandemic and its effects, Hawaii Chief Information Officer Douglas Murdock said its legacy paper-based processes would have severely hindered productivity of employees working from home during the pandemic. The move to Microsoft Office 365 and Adobe Sign, an e-signature service, also helped support work-from-home employees and accelerated adoption.

How Hawaii Got It Right:

Hawaii bet early on the benefits of digitization. Within six months of the digitization initiative it began in 2015, the state eliminated one million sheets of printer paper from its operations, reducing paper usage by 20%. Digitization proved to be an extra, unanticipated boon this year when employees transitioned to work from home during lockdown.   

“The timing has been good because we do have a lot of people working from home and that’s going to be part of the future of government operations, and having systems where people can go online instead of having to fill out what are, in some cases, carbon paper forms will be a lot better,” Murdock says. In addition to timing, an organizational-wide culture shift to digitization also contributed to the program’s success.

“It’s been changing the culture of how we do business, but when COVID happened, everybody wanted their process to be e-sign, even the last holdouts,” Murdock told StateScoop. 

Governor Ige estimated in 2015 that Hawaii’s state agencies used 12 million pieces of paper. In 2017, that figure declined to 4 million. Savings on the cost of paper alone will save hundreds of millions of dollars, according to official estimates. Hawaii’s agencies will also realize measurable efficiency improvements and time savings contributing to improved service delivery.

Florida Department of Health Digitizes Voucher Process, Skillfully Navigating Initial System Misstep

3. Florida Department of Health Digitizes Voucher Process, Skillfully Navigating a Digital Process Update

Problem:

The Florida Department of Health’s (DOH) paper voucher system was difficult to manage, inefficient, and susceptible to security breaches. An initial system they chose to digitize had problems importing the vouchers, retrieving digital images, assigning work, and matching the vouchers to supporting documentation.

The agency also encountered data loss issues with the system, which led to a nine-month project to ensure every voucher was input to a repository. That effort involved time-consuming and inefficient paper-based validation, which they were trying to eliminate.

To reverse the issues with its first choice, DOH quickly pivoted and implemented a solution that would properly support its requirements.

Solution:

The agency turned to Image API, its partner for other digitization initiatives, for a solution that included a combination of Image API’s offerings.

With Image API’s Axiom Pro solution, DOH can store digital files in one location so teams across the state can access vouchers quickly. Management and administrative users can view vouchers and processing status with role-based security. The solution supports the daily voucher load and automates the process, saving time and improving accuracy.

This eliminated all points of failure in their manual system. Vouchers now load automatically with an audit trail, staff can search for vouchers, and digital vouchers are accessible through a secure, web-based application. The digital voucher process has eliminated the need to manually print, prep, and scan paper vouchers.

How DOH Got It Right:

DOH quickly pivoted from its original vendor once it saw problems. Within six months of hiring a new digitization partner, all vouchers were digitized, and the process updated. Centralized in one location, it now saves significant processing time, with 100% transparency for audits.

Choosing a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution allows for continuous innovation without the disruption and cost of traditional software installations and maintenance updates. SaaS also provides increased security.

The digital voucher system is a final step in a DOH digital initiative that includes procurement, contracting invoicing, and payment processing. Proving the value of a paper-to-digital solution paves the way to expand the agency’s overall digital transformation.

Getting It Right for Your Agency

Government that is fit for the future takes reinvention, including organizational structure, processes, and culture. It means using a wider lens to consider how digitization will affect the entire organization and all relationships in it—so every stakeholder benefits. That’s how these three state agencies are getting digitization right.

Want to get it right for your agency? Schedule a meeting with one of our experts to discuss your specific needs and how we can help.