Located east of the Mississippi River, O’Fallon, IL lies near the Missouri border and is considered part of the St. Louis metropolitan area. The mid-sized town has ranked as one of the best cities in Illinois to raise a family and has an active Parks & Rec department that hosts a number of outdoor activities at the city’s 200-acre sports and recreation complex.
Leading digitalization efforts for the city is Dan Gentry, Director of IT; Greg Anderson, Management Analyst & Grants Coordinator; and Matt Meyer, Network Analyst who are actively deploying digital solutions to simplify and improve processes across multiple departments. We recently sat down with the three of them to learn more about the ways they’ve been utilizing digital solutions to advance city operations.
GovOS Solution: Application Studio
Launched: February 2015
What was the initial need that led you to search for a digital solution?
Dan: Several years ago, our Parks & Rec department came to me because they wanted a way to capture information online instead of having to print PDF form submissions and enter the details manually. They were looking for a system that would automatically capture submission information during the workflow process for activities like enrolling children in day camp.
At the same time, our HR department was also searching for a solution that would enable them to digitize employee onboarding and telework requests. That’s when we started looking at GovOS Studio (formerly SeamlessDocs).
What are some of the different ways departments use Studio?
City Clerk’s Office
Greg: The City Clerk’s Office is responsible for assisting the business community with a number of licenses in addition to the Application for Business Registration. Studio has helped us eliminate a lot of the paperwork associated with these processes and we now have everything from our Mobile Food Truck Vendor License Application to our Burial Request Form available online.
If there’s additional paperwork required for us to process an application, users can include these as attachments with their submission. This helps ensure we have all the information we need so we can collect payment from the applicant (if necessary) and release the license quickly. Studio has really made the permitting process much more convenient all around.
Matt: In the IT department, we used Studio to streamline our phone upgrade process, which used to be completed via email. If an employee wants to request an upgraded phone, they can now submit a request via the online form which gets routed to their supervisor for approval. Once approved, I’m notified immediately and can move forward with the process from there.
We also use Studio to create checklists to track the progress of multi-step, multi-user system upgrades. I can create a form with check boxes on it and include a link to the form in my upgrade email to users. I require them to check all boxes and sign off on the checklist so I know all steps have been completed and the system is working properly
Greg: Our HR department now has a 360-evaluation system. I used Studio to build an evaluation form for this system and included a submission rule that allows employees to select their supervisor when submitting. This automatically routes the form to that person doing the reviewing, instead of a more convoluted routing process.
I also created an employee information change form that allows employees to update their personal information (home address, email, phone, marital status, etc.) without having to email the HR manager. This has been an immense help since our ePortal doesn’t allow employees to go in and change their personal information themselves
How has automation impacted communication between departments?
Greg: We’ve set up automation components for services like the Burial Request Form since these responses need to go to our Parks & Rec department initially to ensure they have availability to schedule the burial.
Once approved, the form is routed to the City Clerk’s Office and the Deputy City Clerk signs off on it. Before automating this process, the paperwork was routed back and forth between departments via interoffice mail, which lengthened the processing time. The new workflow allows almost instantaneous communication between departments.
How did the city’s digital service offerings help the community during the pandemic?
Greg: Once COVID hit, our office was closed to the public so having business licensing online was huge for us since we were able to refer people to the online form.
Although business registration is a function of the City Clerk’s Office, it requires collaboration with our Community Development Department because they need to ensure the business is up to date on inspections and property maintenance. When we were working from home, a business registration would come in via Studio, and instead of having to print it out, complete a routing form, and send it through interoffice mail, we were able to take the form submission, send it to the Community Development Department, then they would sign off and send it right back to us. You would think the process would be much slower with nobody in the office, but it sped things up and made us more effective.
“Once COVID hit, our office was closed to the public so having business licensing online was huge for us since we were able to refer people to the online form.”
-Greg Anderson, Management Analyst & Grants Coordinator, City of O’Fallon, IL
What has been the general response to digitalization?
Greg: Studio is very user-friendly and there have been big time savings all around with the changes we’ve made. What used to be much more labor-intensive processes have been simplified. For instance, by allowing applicants to attach documents to the online form submissions we can relieve staff from having to follow up on incomplete paper applications.
Dan: One of the other nice things about Studio is that employees can use the solution to develop their own forms or workflows. This means employees have been able to find ways to simplify their own tasks and we don’t have to get too involved in department-specific updates that folks can now handle on their own.
Greg: When employees ask if there’s a way to transition a workflow to Studio, I always encourage them to do so and bring more paper-based processes online. Studio has allowed us to quickly shift outdated practices to online workflows that speed up operations. I really like having the autonomy to be able to go in and create the form I need when I need it.