While many state and local governments that were caught largely unprepared at the start of the pandemic, Dorchester County of South Carolina was ready. Its digital transformation was already underway—the forward-looking county had turned to SimpliGov’s industry-leading workflow automation platform to digitize forms, automate processes, and deliver digital services on demand well before COVID-19 ravaged the United States in March 2020.
“We had been working with SimpliGov long before the pandemic, and we definitely benefitted greatly by having services online when COVID hit,” said Jason Walters, Chief Information Officer, Dorchester County. “Automation and digital forms go a long way toward simplifying government in a time of crisis.”
When stay-at-home orders went into effect last year, the county leveraged the SimpliGov platform to allow requests for speakers to speak virtually from remote locations at council meetings.
“We could continue to provide public transparency and have productive meetings because we had the right capabilities available on the SimpliGov platform, which meets government requirements very nicely,” added Walters. “As COVID hit, we certainly saw a need for new online forms to be created. Given that we had SimpliGov at our disposal, we were able to quickly deploy forms within a matter of days.”
Dorchester’s preparedness can be traced back to some decisions it made about its technology infrastructure prior to the pandemic.
Long before COVID-19 had taken root, Dorchester had already found success using SimpliGov’s intuitive Forms Designer to quickly customize digital forms to reflect its unique business processes. However, the county was also able to lean on SimpliGov to avoid a pitfall that had plagued the efforts of many counties, cities, towns, and states across the country in their respective transitions to digital government: streamlining the complex corresponding processes associated with those forms.
Dorchester realized it needed to enable employees to more efficiently process requests and applications. However, this process spanned multiple departments, and the county struggled to coordinate the efforts of each of the divisions that had a hand in it.
“We were looking for a solution that connected online forms with an integrated back-end workflow management system,” Walters explained. “We saw how automating back-office tasks could help maximize efficiencies and streamline the workflow involved in these interdepartmental processes.”
A system was needed to allow the county to track and understand the different types of incoming requests and manage them all effectively. Traditionally, the county’s many multidepartment processes were built on extremely complex workflows. The CIO and his team wanted to address this challenge head on and offer more visibility into—and automation of— those processes.
“To become more efficient, you need more than an online form. It’s that workflow on the back end that routes that form or submission through multiple departments, ensures all necessary data is aggregated and up-to-date, and verifies that everything is done correctly,” said Walters.
Recently, the county wanted to automate the workflow for budget transfers which had to go through many different approval channels. Depending on the dollar amount or the nature of the budget transfer, the process could get complicated quickly.
“In the past, when old paper-based forms were submitted, there was no way of knowing where it was in the approval process, how far along it was, or when I should expect it to be completed,” said Walters. “We were inconveniencing our constituents by requiring them to come in and fill out these paper-based forms. Similarly, it was difficult for our employees to ascertain their current status.”
Dorchester County leveraged every component of the SimpliGov workflow automation platform, including the integrated online forms and SimpliSign electronic signature capabilities.
“We have found the SimpliGov interface to be extremely intuitive and easy to use,” said Walters. “We also found SimpliSign as an e-signature capability to be exceptionally efficient—it met our needs capably.”
“On the front end, the simplicity of the end-user dashboard experience, in which employees can easily manage and filter incoming form requests and intuitively complete the necessary steps, has empowered us to turn activities over to non-technical government personnel who can keep pushing things forward.”
The transition to the SimpliGov’s no-code, software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform also helped the county rethink how to streamline processes using a more effective and scalable technological approach.
“A lot of times people don’t know how the process works until they are forced to walk through it and build it in a workflow form. The SimpliGov solution was transformative in helping us think about our operations in this way,” said Walters. “Many people learn through the process of creating these workflows—it’s a knowledge-building initiative. SimpliGov has been the right choice to help us facilitate this much-needed experience.”
SimpliGov’s support team also provided extra assistance to Dorchester County every step of the way.
“We have come to trust SimpliGov’s responsible team, which has continually provided security and support on the back end. We have a tremendous comfort level in the service we get from SimpliGov.”
“Our use of the SimpliGov platform is making our people and our processes more efficient,” said Walters. “Now we can go into the dashboard and see all of the transfers we submitted, where they stand, and who has approved them, and we can alert appropriate parties that still need to address them through the system. We can track the transfers all the way through the process in a way that wasn’t previously possible. The county has the peace of mind that they will not be forgotten or lost.”
The shift to automated workflows has made it easier to track requests, process forms, manage back-office tasks, navigate the complexities of multidepartment approvals and transfers, provide visibility, and interact with constituents. This has resulted in increased productivity, time savings, reduced complexity, and faster time-to-value.
“With the SimpliGov platform’s capabilities, we managed to simplify government,” Walters concluded. “The SimpliGov team helped us understand the technology and leverage it for our county’s benefit.”