Last updated: September 2, 2020

Local Government Best Practices: Atlantic, IA

Here's how the City of Atlantic, IA began its digital transformation to find a better way to correspond with constituents.
Posted by Megan Wells
govos   Digital transformation isn’t just a line item woven into public sector budgets anymore. Today, government departments are recognizing the importance of bringing their systems into the digital world, and implementing change within their agencies at a rapid pace.   According to a study on digital transformation conducted by Deloitte, 1200 government officials from over 70 countries overwhelmingly say that digital technologies have a major impact on government capabilities. 96% of the officials surveyed say that digital technologies are drastically changing the way their website domain operates. That’s because, with the latest technology and with improved digital capabilities, agencies can:
  • Improve business processes
  • Improve communication and organization across departments
  • Drive new and valuable services models for citizens
[Read More: How the Iowa OCIO and DOT have digitized hundreds of forms using GovOS]

Moving Toward Digital Maturity

The majority of government agencies (60%) are currently developing within their digital maturity. Meaning, they’ve likely gotten buy-in for change, but may still be trying to figure out what strategy works. Perhaps they’ve gone through one iteration of change, and realize they need to turn the steering wheel and course correct. The city of Atlantic, IA is a great example of a government agency operating within the ‘developing stage’ of their digital maturity. Earlier this year, the city of less than 8,000 was in its earliest stages of digital transformation. Amanda Martin, Atlantic’s City Administrators Assistant and Kris Erickson, Atlantic’s Code Enforcement Officer, realized it was time for their city to find a better way to correspond with its constituents. For their first foray into digital transformation, Atlantic implemented technology that aggregated constituent complaints like if a road has potholes, a neighbor’s garbage can is overflowing, or loose animals are spotted around town. While the platform worked for a while, Kris said that the technology turned constituent comments into a “Facebook-esque wall,” making each complaint public-facing and available for additional comments. Having an open forum for public complaints turned Kris’ job into one where she was spending more time monitoring and mediating the platform’s comments than solving problems. Kris and her team wanted to find their 2.0 technology to continue offering their community of forum for conversation, but one that was better organized and easier to take action on. (Fun fact: According to the Deloitte study mentioned earlier in this article, only 13% of government agencies consider themselves “mature” in their digital usage.)

Overcoming Challenges Along The Way

Challenges arise during changes in digital maturity, and are varied at each stage. For example, in the early stages of change, government agencies and those initiating change might be afraid to take risks or have difficulty getting buy-in from key stakeholders. Mature digital transformation may have more technical or budgetary concerns as their digital process evolves. For Kris and her team, the challenge during the development stage was related to strategy.  Their first step into digital transformation wasn’t deep enough. It only touched the tip of the iceberg when it came to aggregating constituent needs. So, they wanted to make sure the next platform they considered could help them collect constituent comments in a more organized way.  GovOS Studio was a natural fit for Atlantic because of it enabled them to bring government forms online that are:
  • Easy to fill out
  • Customized to the city
  • Created with digital signatures in mind
  • Submitted back to the city with ease
[READ MORE: How to assess forms and prioritize which ones to bring online first.] What Kris and her team didn’t expect was that the capabilities of GovOS Studio would also help them improve many internal processes they never considered broken, or didn’t have time to correct previously.  For example, now Atlantic uses GovOS Studio for a more streamlined invoicing and billing process. And, now they’ve expanded their digital forms to purchase orders, which have been among its highest volume forms – and unexpectedly the most important document as they found new ways to conduct business during the global pandemic.  Since February of 2020, Atlantic has digitized 55 forms and received more than 330 online submissions from its constituents. The cities most submitted forms are:
  • Wastewater Treatment Purchase Order/Request
  • Property Violation Records Form
  • Property Violation Reporting Form
  • City Hall Purchased Order/Request
  • COVID-19 Purchase Order/Request
Kris also runs the city’s animal shelter, and realized that by digitizing dog license forms, she not only saves time from a manual process, but she also saves storage space. Paperwork for the shelter often needs to be stored for at least three years, and a digital process allows her to free up filing cabinet of space in her office.

Making digital transformation work

Regardless of which stage of digital maturity an agency is in, without a plan, implementing change and keeping momentum up can be a challenge.  For a smooth transition, GovOS worked with the city of Atlantic to manage change systematically.  With our process, GovOS helps our partners identify the right people to advocate for change, and which forms will be the easiest wins for your staff and community alike, and how to implement change quickly:
  1. People: Your team is at the heart of change management. It’s essential to find people who are trained, able to build automated workflows, capable of coordinating tasks, and are excellent communicators to kickstart a digital transformation initiative.
  2. Forms: When launching a form digitization campaign, it’s important to assess which forms can bring you the quickest wins, and which forms have the biggest impact on your department.
  3. Time: To execute change in a timely manner, it’s essential to create timelines for how things will get implemented, and identify who is accountable for which tasks.
With the right people, forms and schedule in place, Atlantic has seamlessly graduated from the beginning stages of their digital transformation into a working, developmental phase. Their success has been celebrated throughout the community.
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