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For many municipal governments, digital transformation means implementing a citizen-focused e-government initiative. For others, the transformation centers on the modernization of legacy systems.

In the case of the City of Fort Worth, Texas, digital transformation started with its business processes.

Fixing the Forms

The reason Fort Worth began with its processes makes sense when you realize the enormous growth pressure the city is under. “We’ve been experiencing a huge influx of people, businesses as well as tourists,” explained Kevin Gunn, Chief Technology Officer at City of Fort Worth, Texas. “Lots of growth and new construction comes with a demand for city services.”

However, more growth for the city doesn’t mean more people for its government. “Today, the challenge is that we’re competing for labor, and we can’t compete on price,” Gunn said. “There are constraints on the growth of our workforce. People need to be more efficient.”

This need for efficiency quickly led to a discussion of forms, as paper forms were ubiquitous across the city government, from permit applications to health insurance benefits. “A lot of work was driven by forms,” Gunn said. “We were doing it on paper, which was error prone and introduced delays.”

Digitizing forms is a common modernization tactic, of course – from the fat clients of the 1980s to the web-based forms of the 1990s and the portable document formats that became popular in the 2000s.

However, none of these now-established approaches fit the bill for the city. “We decided to take the forms to digital and make the whole lifecycle digital,” Gunn said. “We looked at Microsoft Word format, portable document formats like PDFs.”

However, these document-centric approaches fell short. The problem: the level of complexity some forms required. “We had lots of requirements for simple to complex, dynamic forms, for example, benefits selection,” Gunn explained. “We had predefined and ad hoc workflows.”

Low-Code BPM to the Rescue

After a few wrong turns, Gunn’s team decided to look at business process management (BPM) tools. By looking at some of the leading BPM tools on the market, they realized that cost and efficiency were the deciding factors. “We looked at three or four BPM candidates, but our decision really came down to cost per feature,” Gunn said. “Part of the challenge is the skill set necessary to create complex forms.”

Any such tool could not add to the work of the already strained workforce within the IT department. Instead, it was essential to shift much of the effort to personnel in the individual departments. “We didn’t want the police or fire departments, for example, to have to come to IT to create forms and workflows,” Gunn explained. “We had a vision of a one-stop shop, a forms portal.”

To meet build such a portal, the City of Fort Worth chose BP Logix, a low-code BPM platform that facilitated the city’s forms portal goal. “We created frequently used artifacts and built templates for workflows, for example, approval escalation,” Gunn said. From that point on, each department was able to build its own forms-based workflows, thus meeting the needs of each department without needing additional resources from IT.

This collaboration between IT and business people that empowers such users to take some control over the applications they work with is a core benefit of low-code platforms. The end result was greater efficiency. “For example, if a permit technician could process 10 permits per day, they now process 20 or 30,” Gunn explained.

The First Step on the Road to Digital Transformation

The City of Forth Worth is pleased with the success of the forms portal. “We are not simply taking paper forms and converting them to digital formats,” Gunn explained. “We are evaluating our business processes to reduce errors, improve cycle times, reduce wait time, and facilitate adoption.”

The results speak for themselves: over 400 forms went live on the day the forms portal launched, and the portal increased form usage by 30%. The citizen-facing part of the portal increased user participation by 25% while reducing costs by 30%. Citizens also reported greater satisfaction with the portal.

The city is now well on its way to a broader digital transformation. “We’re in the early stages of citizen-centric government. It wasn’t part of our vision until recently,” Gunn said.

Gunn is sanguine about the long-term prospects of this transformation. “The City of Fort Worth is endeavoring on a bold plan for digital transformation and has already achieved successes that any municipality in the country can replicate,” Gunn concluded.

Given the high levels of satisfaction with BP Logix and the early successes with the forms portal, the City of Fort Worth should be well prepared for continued growth well into the future.

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Jason Bloomberg

Quelle/Source: Forbes, 27.12.2018

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