Speaking Your Language: Defining Agreements for Everyday Public Sector Use

Did you know that every time a government agency needs to distribute a benefit, an agreement is required to capture information, facilitate approval, and kick off the service delivery? In the public sector arena, agreements drive virtually every operational process and body of work—whether internal or external.

Let’s examine what we mean by the term “agreement” and how it manifests in the public sector.

What is an agreement?

An agreement is any event in which two or more people or parties commit to doing something together. As a result, an agreement can be verbal or written, legally binding, or non-legally binding. They can also be negotiated or non-negotiated. Contracts are a subset of agreements, but they’re only one kind of agreement. To put this another way: all contracts are agreements, but not all agreements are contracts. Contracts memorialize terms, conditions, rights, and obligations.

What are public sector agreements?

Agreements in government come in all shapes and sizes. They go by a lot of different names, including forms, authorizations, correspondence, contracts, documents, and much more. From commonplace agreements, like a social welfare application, to obscure and nice agreements, like animal export certificates, agreements are the “glue” that holds together mission workflows and agency responsibilities. The number of types of agreements you’ll find across different government agencies is almost too many to count. Here are just a few examples of where agreements are present across the public sector:

  • Constituent Services: Liability waivers, licenses, permits, and tax forms
  • Housing & Urban Development: Building permits, housing applications, and zoning approvals
  • Health & Human Services: Grant applications, disability forms, and enrollment applications
  • Justice & Public Safety: Warrants, evidence control, and witness statements
  • Procurement: Vendor contracts, purchase orders, and termination letters
  • Human Resources: Offer letters, background checks, and employee training certifications
  • Information Technology: Asset Management, change requests, and incident reporting
  • Education: Individualized Education Programs, teacher contracts, and student packets

Agreements within the government can be both highly comprehensive and fairly straightforward. For example, Individualized Education Programs deal with multiple stakeholders inside and outside schools, requiring back-and-forth input, review, and adjustments. An NDA doesn’t require modifications and is either rejected or approved before signing.

What does an agreement capture?

Depending on the agreement’s purpose, various critical data points could be included, such as government employee name, vendor EIN, constituent contact information, terms of service, benefits, licenses, or contracts. They can also include the expiration date of a service, benefit, license, or contract.

In addition, agreements include details on how to achieve and validate the commitments made once the agreement has been signed. For example, this can include information about penalties for failing to deliver on commitments, contingencies for unforeseen events, or different developments throughout a commitment.

Armed with the right technology, this rich data can be used to optimize processes, ensure compliance, and drive decisions.

Why are agreements important?

Agreements impact everyone: constituents, employees, partner agencies, and more. From multi-billion dollar purchase agreements to everyday constituent-facing forms, virtually every public sector organization runs on agreements. The Federal government uses almost 10,000 unique forms and processes more than 106 billion total each year.

Agreements form the foundation for important operations, such as hiring, providing benefits, distributing grants, or even signing departmental policies. Each agreement needs to be created, reviewed, edited, signed and managed through its end date.

Agreements enhance transparency between the government and constituents. They detail the government’s commitments to constituents and provide a foundational template for constituents to hold the government accountable.

Why should you automate agreement management? 

While government employees collaborate to bring agreements to life, many of their processes are still largely done manually. 

Most agencies move between a digital, automated system (CRM or ERP) and a disconnected agreement process. As a result, manual intervention is required, which can lead to errors and delays. 

By automating agreement management, agencies can easily create digital forms and provide a seamless experience to capture information. Once the information is populated, agencies can have constituents securely sign the agreement. After the signature, agencies can unlock the data that lives in their agreements, such as pulling reports and creating dashboards to understand specific trends within the data fields. Docusign helps customers better manage this by delivering a frictionless digital agreement process before and after signature, ensuring services are easy to access, and processes run smoothly, creating better experiences for everyone.

Transform your agreements today

Now that you understand what we mean by the word “agreement,” learn how to transform paper forms into digital agreements—and better experiences for your constituents.