Local government agencies and offices aren’t always known for speed or convenience when it comes to processing paperwork. The County of San Diego has made great strides over the past few years, however, to change that perception. We are using technology to improve efficiency, simplify processes, ensure privacy, save money and, most importantly, make things easier for our constituents. One of the main ways we are doing that is through our partnership with SIGNiX, which began in 2013.
We are now four years into a five-year plan I launched when I first joined the County, and we are far ahead of schedule. We have implemented digital signatures, also called Independent E-Signatures™, to execute five of our most common forms and are in the process of adding more. And, as I noted in my previous blog, we are saving about $230,000 per year just by using digital signatures. We’ve received multiple awards for our e-signature program, including the Center for Digital Government’s Digital Government Achievement Award in the Government-to-Citizen (local government) category for our online homeowners’ exemption process. What was once an inefficient and time-consuming process is now quick and streamlined.
It’s no longer a matter of if government agencies will transition to digital processes but when. Here are some things I’ve learned through our process:
Get everyone on board internally as quickly as possible.
The first step is to make sure the administration is ready to make some changes. My elected official’s vision was to bring our products and services to everyone’s fingertips – Anytime, Anywhere, Anyhow. As we discussed the rollout of this new technology, some were worried that it might take away jobs, but surprisingly it’s the opposite: people can now do their jobs better because of less time wasted on inefficient workflows.
Ensure technology is authorized statewide and compliant.
Compliance is a huge factor for government agencies, and we took this into consideration as we began looking for a secure digital solution. Our journey to digitalsignature usage began with extensive due diligence to vet the technology vendors. One of the greatest advantages of SIGNiX was its outstanding security and legal standards that adhere to guidelines set by the state of California.
Make the transition as easy as possible.
Once you have team members on board with the idea of e-signatures and you’ve found a compliant technology platform, help make the paperless transition smoother by thoroughly training your staff. Implementing new technology should be a seamless process for both internal staff members and constituents. Provide this training upfront so users will understand how the system works and will feel more confident in making the switch to digital.
Work with a partner that can adapt its technology to your needs.
SIGNiX Independent E-Signatures™ have proven to be an agile product. The SIGNiX team was ready, willing and able to modify code and technology on the backend to develop a product that best suited our needs. Our pilot project involved transitioning a homeowner’s exemption form, which requires two separate signatures, to a digital signature process. The SIGNiX technology required additional flexibility relative to optional signatures. SIGNiX was very understanding of our request and was able to rapidly design their e-signature solution around our needs.
Implement technology that provides a quick ROI.
New technology adds a new line item expense to your budget, so make sure that what you choose will deliver a quick return on your investment. With SIGNiX, we saw an ROI within only months of launching our pilot program, thanks to cost savings from postage, printing and ink, as well as document storage.
Simplifying once cumbersome and time-consuming processes has enabled our staff to improve their job performance and provide better service to the residents of our County. Other government agencies have taken note of our success and are looking to our program for guidance and inspiration. I hope the insights we have learned through our digital signature partnership help guide other government offices as they work to incorporate new technologies.
Rolf Bishop is the Chief Information Officer for the County of San Diego’s Assessor, Recorder and County Clerk’s office. Learn more about the County of San Diego by visiting http://www.sandiegocounty.gov/.