If you want to improve the citizen experience, start with the forms

By Seth Engel, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Docusign

I recently had the opportunity to speak to a room full of public servants at the public sector session of Docusign Momentum ‘19, our annual customer conference. I asked the following question: “How many of you like spending your days filling out a lot of administrative forms?” Not a single hand went up.

Public servants, it turns out, hate paperwork as much as the public does because it gets them away from the reason they went into public service in the first place­­—serving people.

The citizen experience is more important today than ever before because today’s public really expects more. We all do. Smart phones have been around for over a decade. We use them to order all kinds of services we need 24 hours a day, without regard to nine-to-five office hours. We all expect more from all kinds of service providers and government is no exception.

To put a fine point on it, a survey by Accenture of 3,000 citizens who had recently interacted with state and local government found that the public expects the same or higher quality digital services from government as they do from commercial service providers. Yet the same survey found that 4 in 10 citizens are still not satisfied with the government’s digital tools.

So where should government begin to improve the citizen experience? Start with the forms. Forms are where the rubber hits the road for the billions of interactions every year between citizens and their government. From filling out tax returns to applying for a driver’s license to starting a business, the citizen experience runs thru forms.

There is a lot of value in starting with forms. The federal government alone spends over $38 billion dollars a year managing public facing paperwork. A lot of that cost is managing billions of submissions of the 23,000 forms across the government. Many of these forms are paper only. A lot of it is also PDFs, which still need to be manually entered on the back end and are not accessible.

Resist the urge to copy/paste a paper process into a digital one. Take some time on the front end to map out your current processes, including all the information you are asking the public to complete, how they get that information, and whether that information is necessary to collect or you can get it in some other (hopefully automated) way. For particularly complicated forms, think about putting them in a guided interview-style format (think Turbotax) where people only answer the questions that apply to them. Agencies that take the time to map their processes first generate the insights that reduce complexity for the public and for themselves in the long run.

So there you have it: Start with forms. Map out your processes first and reduce complexity with guided forms. Your citizens will thank you for it and you’ll realize benefits more quickly than waiting for a central IT project to materialize.

Are you ready to modernize your agency? Learn more about Docusign’s solutions for government agencies.

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