Digital First


Federal agencies are ditching paper processes to better serve citizens—and each other. 

As computers took over offices, digitization was supposed to kill off paper. Instead, at many agencies there’s more than ever. 

Paper processes still dominate the federal government. An online form often captures information that gets printed, passed around and then re-entered into other systems by hand or by scans. Then, the whole process may repeat. But agencies are trying to break the cycle, driven to better serve their customers and accomplish their missions more efficiently and effectively. 

In 2012, a team at the Office of Personnel Management set out to build a customizable digital performance review system that any agency could use. It’s a complex feat to develop a system the entire federal government can use, but 35 agencies and offices already signed on to use the customizable USA Performance app.

Going digital first takes rethinking workflows around the users’ needs. Defense Digital Service designers embed themselves with the end users of their products, whether revamping the website military families use to move around the world or reworking the Army Cyber Command’s cyber training. The Agriculture Department’s Farm Loan Discovery Tool didn’t put the entire application process online—but only because farmers didn’t want that. Instead the agency focused on answering the questions of potential borrowers so they feel prepared. 

That customer focus—whether it’s for citizens or fellow agencies—push agencies to find digital transformation opportunities. The National Archives and Records Administration is curating tools to support agencies in electronic records management efforts and the Federal Communication Commission plans to shift to all-online licensing. The Technology Modernization Fund, the government’s central IT fund, recently announced it would pony up money to help Agriculture and the Equal Employment Opportunity Council projects shift to the cloud.

"It’s two projects that were operating on paper-based processes to serve citizens, one of them used triplicate copy forms—I don’t even know where to buy them anymore,” Federal Chief Information Officer Suzette Kent said Oct. 21.

This ebook explores all of those projects and how digitization efforts are changing the ways agencies deliver while saving some trees in the process.

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