Quicker, More Efficient, and User-Friendly Workflows Are Saving 2,000 Hours Per Month and Counting
In the heart of Silicon Valley, the City of Cupertino is the headquarters to many businesses, including Apple, and home to close to 60,000 residents. The city’s 200-plus employees across more than a dozen divisions are constantly updating the internal processes they use to deliver a wide variety of services to constituents.
At the onset of the COVID pandemic, Cupertino was eager to modernize its business processes. The city jumped into the world of digital forms with both feet, initially turning to Microsoft 365’s Power Automate capabilities. Initially buoyed by its rich functionality, after a few years Cupertino was left with significant operational inefficiencies and looking for an alternative.
Although Power Automate’s features were vast, it came without any templates. In many cases, it wasn’t obvious how to optimize them. For example, electronic signature workflows had to be set up individually with each user, sometimes twice if one employee needed to review a document multiple times. The staff simply didn’t have the time and design skills to learn all of the form field options and relatively complex workflow nuances. Moreover, each worker built their forms differently. Thus, no standard could emerge.
But the real difficulties came after digital forms were created. Cupertino had no central location to track the scores of digital forms circulating among the many different departments. They could be stuck in one employee’s inbox, in the organization’s SharePoint database, or just plain lost at any given time. And even those forms that made it to final approval required administrative work on the part of employees, who had to manually move the created PDFs and save them into the city’s document management system.
“Collectively, we often found ourselves asking, ‘Where’s that form?’” said Teri Gerhardt, Innovation Technology Manager, City of Cupertino. “We spent an inordinate amount of time hunting down approvals and documents themselves.”
Cupertino sought a platform that was built for novice users, equipped with thorough tracking capabilities, compatible with existing systems, and able to go live fairly quickly. SimpliGov’s integrated digital form, workflow, and electronic signature solution checked all of these boxes. Its template library enabled employees to select fields and layouts that were appropriate for their particular business process with a little customization, and its no-code architecture enabled the city to develop forms quickly and integrate the entire workflow with SharePoint and Cupertino’s Laserfiche document management system. The associated workflows were equally user-friendly. Whether a form required two or seven people’s review, employees could easily send it along to the next person through the SimpliGov platform with an autogenerated email alert.
The workflow component is streamlining some of Cupertino’s most complex processes. For example, when employees open the new petty cash reimbursement form, SimpliGov automatically populates their name and other basic information—such as email address, ID number, and department—from SharePoint. Once they submit the form and attach the receipts, the documents are automatically sent to an immediate supervisor for verification that the request is legitimate. From there, the individual seeking reimbursement schedules a meeting with the finance department where multiple parties sign the form and the cash is exchanged.
More important, the Laserfiche integration ensures that all finalized forms are instantaneously archived in PDF format, where they can be retrieved via a simple search on SimpliGov’s dashboard. The dashboard is equally essential for in-progress forms; any employee can determine who is holding up an approval or has failed to sign a memo with a click of a button and rectify the situation immediately.
“In and of itself, going digital doesn’t necessarily produce a truly modern government. SimpliGov’s platform delivered the ease-of-use, flexibility, and highly streamlined organization one would expect upon the digitization of services,” said Gerhardt.
Now that SimpliGov is sparing Cupertino employees the bureaucratic duties of chasing down employees for approvals, saving final copies to Laserfiche, and manually entering metadata into its system, the staff is saving nearly 2,000 hours per month between the 15 or so HR, finance, and administrative workflows that have been operationalized. Just as important, there have been no errors in processing submissions across each of these workflows.
In addition to petty cash reimbursement, Cupertino has SimpliGov forms and workflows for key card authorizations, emergency contacts, workplace violence prevention training verification, record destruction authorization, key card activation, procurement, and service center invoices, among other processes. The city will soon unveil a new separation checklist for employees’ final day at the office, as well as a digital park ranger log, which will allow park custodians to file interactions with the public, trainings, and instructions for the next ranger on patrol electronically; park staffers will no longer have to dig through cabinets of paper files for citations, code violations, and details on past visitors.
Employees feel empowered now that they have a tool that enables them to design and implement their own forms and workflows quickly.
“There’s a line of employees around the corner looking to convert their existing forms and processes using SimpliGov,” said Gerhardt. “Everyone sees the benefit.”