The Licensing Organization’s Guide to Seamless Digitization

A guide to building the right technology solution when resources are limited, but demands keep increasing.

Time To Read : 35 Minutes

Licensing organizations are expected to do more with less. To operate and respond in new ways. To process more and do it quicker. Yet, the ratio of staff to licensing requests and backlogs continues to grow more imbalanced.

Many organizations are stuck trying to work within systems that are outdated, don’t support virtual teams, and are riddled with manual processes that require massive paper trails. These systems don’t allow for easy automation or the ability to quickly make workflow changes. 

Agency directors have been under pressure to improve the process, while CIOs continually get complaints from their teams about systems not meeting their needs.And chiefs of licensing are being asked to turn licenses faster with fewer resources.

Can you relate?

It doesn’t have to be this hard. It is possible to create a more efficient licensing organization –– one that’s built upon a foundation of responsive and adaptable technology. More importantly, one that thoughtfully takes into account the stakeholder experience.

Modernizing Licensing to Thrive in the Future

In most licensing organizations, demands are continuing to rise, staff sizes are shrinking and teams don’t have the tools necessary to process requests efficiently. This is because their systems are either built on cobbled-together and antiquated tools, or the existing technology relies too heavily on manual processes. This makes rapid response a challenge, often creating a backlog of updates that need to be made to forms and processes. 

If you’re like many licensing organizations, you likely continue to battle a disparate system of tools and applications. This makes it a challenge to access necessary information when and where you need it –– and can make for a poor customer experience. Still, licensing applications and requests of organizations show no signs of slowing down.

Take occupational licensing for example. This is an area that has grown five-fold in the U.S. since the 1950s. As of 2018, more than 43 million U.S. workers (or 22% of the employed population) held an occupational license.

Despite the tremendous growth in the licensing sector, there remains an imbalance in the application to staff ratio. Simultaneously, licensing leaders and staff are contending with pressures to work more efficiently while trying to consider how to become more customer focused and provide 24/7 services.
Stakeholders are expecting more
Customers have come to expect the same level of service, self-service, and ease from their governmental institutions that they’ve grown accustomed to in the consumer landscape. Whether they’re filing for unemployment, applying for a license, or making a claim, they expect flexibility and ease of use. Customers, rightly so, want the option for self-service, to get answers when and where they need them, and to be able to complete the process in a user-friendly, online environment.Local government officials and even lobbyists from national organizations are also putting pressure on licensing agencies to increase capacity and turn licenses faster. Quicker approvals mean people can get to work sooner.Expectations to do more with lessYou’re likely operating on a limited budget and staff size, and managing an ever-increasing number of customer requests. Inadequate resources naturally translate to longer processing times, and yet, there is still immense pressure from outside influencers—customers, local governments, industry lobbyists, or national associations—to process these requests quickly and accurately.

That means licensing organizations are left with three possible options:

  1. Inaction –– leadership can simply choose not to act, allowing processing times to grow even higher

  2. Add staff –– a costly move and not always guaranteed way to improve results

  3. Introduce new technology –– if it’s the right technology, it will enhance the workflow of existing teams, make it easier to meet customer demands, and evolve with ever-changing customer demands

In fact, the best way for licensing organizations to truly overcome the challenges of limited resources is to invest in the right technology that empowers automation and migration away from dependence on manual and paper-based processes.Greater need to support remote work and virtual service

Today organizations have to be prepared to accommodate remote work and virtual delivery of service. But the reality for many licensing organizations is:

  • systems don’t support virtual teams or customer support;

  • staff has some virtual capabilities but are limited in what they can and can’t access to support customers;

  • or the system is so dated that your team no longer has access to the technical experts to make updates.

The right cloud-based technology will not only enable remote access, but also have the appropriate security and compliance requirements baked in, and be designed to meet the workflow functionalities of your organization. The right technology should also:

  • Enable support remotely and for the IT team to resolve issues virtually

  • Deliver a personalized customer experience and dynamic interaction through things like pre-programmed auto-fill forms based on pre-existing and known data

  • Measure and monitor productivity

Needless to say, the need has never been greater. How do you align with the right technology and the right partner?

Download The Licensing Organization’s Guide to Seamless Digitization

 

Evaluating Technology Partners and Solutions

As you evaluate solutions, it’s natural to prioritize finding the right technology over aligning with the right implementation partner. The right technology is important, but it’s the partner who will make or break the investment and determine the outcomes.

Of course, you also have to consider other constraints when evaluating solutions, such as limited time, budget, and human capital. How do you align with the right tech and partner  that will deliver results within these constraints? 

Qualifying Tech Partners 

Selecting the right partner is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in this process –– even as important as the technology that you choose. Your partner will determine the success of any new software implementation, so it’s vital to select one that can scale with you. 

The first step is to search for a partner with the right size and scope of expertise. This team should be capable of managing and maintaining your system, as well as serving as a strategic partner to identify and mitigate risks before they become problems. Systems have to be kept current to avoid employees creating inefficient workarounds when tools or processes no longer meet their needs –– and a good partner will help avoid this all-too-common occurrence.   

Rather than get caught up on a partner’s list of certifications, focus more on their industry expertise. It’s more important they understand your unique workflows and can deliver a solution and service that matches your organization’s goals, compliance needs, and requirements.

A few other questions to ask:

  • Do they have enough people on their bench with deep government-specific knowledge and real-world experience? 

  • If so, will you have regular access to them?
  • Can they provide proven and successful case studies relevant to licensing?

  • Are they willing to connect you with past customers? 

Investing in a technology upgrade is a sizable investment and your partner needs to be transparent. 

Additionally, explore their methodologies, company culture, and core values. Are their people empowered to do their best work and serve customers’ best interests? How do they demonstrate that they truly embody and live by these core values? Can they provide examples of situations in which their core values guided their decision-making process or actions? Keep in mind, this team will become an extension of your team and should align with your culture.   

Finally, consider how they address problems. Even the best-planned technology upgrades will have roadblocks. It’s part of the process. Assess whether their company is known for taking ownership and offering solutions when these issues arise, or if they’re more prone to blaming others. This is a good question to ask customer references.

Evaluating the Technology 

The right partner should guide you to the right technology, however understanding what your organization needs and what to avoid will help you make an informed decision. And when it comes to selecting licensing technology, there are a few common pitfalls (which the right partner should help you avoid). 

One is going the completely custom route. While the idea of a custom-built solution is appealing, it can have its downfalls. It is expensive, can take a long time to develop and implement, and down the road, can be costly and challenging to update. In many cases, if you don’t have the in-house expertise to support, it can make your team more dependent on the developers who built it. If they leave, so too does that IP.

Another common pitfall is opting for the newest or latest-and-greatest technology to hit the market. It can be risky and there are questions to ask before going down this path:

  1. Do they have any success stories?

  2. Can you talk to actual customers who can share their experience?

  3. Do they have the support in place to address issues?

  4. Is there enough talent in the marketplace versed in this technology to help your team address issues and updates, or is the technology too new?

Before investing in a novel technology, be sure your team will have the support infrastructure to keep your system current.

Similarly, while it may seem obvious to go with the technology that’s specific to your industry, in some cases this can lead you to a solution that is too small and niche. In some cases, these solutions aren’t nimble enough to quickly meet the evolving needs of organizations, which are ever-changing. 

Industry conditions, your customers’ needs, and statutory requirements will continually evolve and change. Licensing software must be able to change with it. Rather than spending money on a new and expensive system every few years, investments will go further with a fully configurable, dynamic technology like Salesforce—which is constantly evolving and upgrading to meet industry-specific demands. 

Salesforce has done the work to establish domain expertise in several focus industries –– including licensing. And because they are omnipresent, there is a massive pool of talent available to support administration. Much of this talent also have specific domain expertise to help guide the strategic buildout of your digital architecture.   

Many organizations are finding success with a hybrid, configurable model that combines the best of the out-of-the-box and customization worlds. Configurable systems will often start with a pre-built solution specific to your industry, but can be tailored to the unique needs of your organization. This reduces the time to implement, often costs less, and is easy to maintain over the long term.   

Licensing technology should enable your organization to take control of the process, support agility, and enable leaner teams to accomplish more without being too reliant on IT departments or expensive outside vendors. The right technology partner will understand this and empower your licensing organization with the tools to succeed— during and long after implementation.

For more tips on aligning with the right technology and partner, download the

Quick Guide for Evaluating Partners and Technology

Pitfalls to Avoid When Implementing New Licensing Technology

In theory, a licensing solution should make the work of your organization better and faster, and save valuable time and resources. But all too often, this is not the outcome. 

Instead, many teams find themselves with an expensive technology that overlooks the unique needs of the organization and the deficiencies that prompted their search for a solution in the first place. Why? 

More often than not, it was a failure to properly prepare, which can lead to an ineffective RFP and eventual system rollout. This gap between proper planning and implementation leads to system abandonment and a poor return on investment. Before your organization invests in new tech, here are a few pitfalls to avoid on the path to a successful rollout.   

Pitfall #1: Putting the tech before the people

Before jumping into the licensing technology selection process, consider your stakeholders first. This is commonly overlooked, however, it’s critical to a successful buildout to talk to customers, employees, and leadership to find out where they experience the most friction in the licensing process.

According to the NASCIO, employees are only involved in innovation initiatives 40% of the time, and citizens only 3% of the time. Yet, senior leaders are engaged in nearly 50% of these initiatives.  

Don’t limit this just to the leadership. While leadership involvement is important, they are often too far removed from daily tasks and that creates a different perspective on operational requirements vs. the reality of in-the-field functionality. 

Get involvement from internal stakeholders across every department, particularly those on the frontlines using the technology and engaging with customers. IT, procurement and accounting teams will prove invaluable throughout the entire process—from drafting the RFP through to the testing and implementation stage –– if you want to create a system that truly works for everyone. 

Another essential stakeholder group is your customers. Using surveys or one-to-one conversations, seek to understand what’s most important to them. Where do they routinely get hung up? What most frustrates them about the current experience? What do they like? 

Ignoring the needs and requirements of your most important people will likely deliver disappointing adoption rates and a poor solution. 

Pitfall #2: Designing around current processes 

Too often, new licensing technology implementations are designed around existing workflows that have already been proven to be inefficient and ineffective. What tends to happen is manual processes are simply replicated in the new system and automation is applied where possible, but this is a costly mistake. 

The end goal of a new system should be greater efficiency and decreased deficiencies. This is an opportunity to eliminate unnecessary processes. Combining automation with the cleanup of manual processes will have a major impact on the success of any new licensing technology. 

Work with your internal stakeholders to document their current process workflows, and do this in an environment where employees feel secure enough to share honest insights. There can’t be any fear of getting reprimanded for speaking up about perceived inadequacies. 

Drill down on which steps and procedures to keep, and which to update or remove. Documenting these procedures also helps to get leadership and all team members on the same page operationally.

Pitfall #3: Not building a comprehensive RFP

Most organizations don’t take the time to build-out detailed requirements before sending out RFIs and RFPs to potential technology vendors and implementation partners. This only sets both entities up for failure, as it increases the likelihood of developing a system that doesn’t meet the organization’s long-term needs. 

Often, licensing organizations have very generic requirements in their RFP’s because they simply don’t know how to articulate what they need. This is common when you’re too close to the work and process. 

To create a more effective RFP and help keep costs and expectations realistic for both sides of the partnership, consider the following:

  • Get stakeholders involved. Taking what you’ve learned from your interdepartmental stakeholders and customers will help you identify the gaps and create a more detailed RFP that reflects the true nature of work and investment.

  • Use documented workflow processes. These will serve as a guide to articulate how you’d like the new system to improve efficiencies.

  • Conduct an internal and external audit. 

    • By now you should know what your team wants to see in this new system and what type of capabilities will empower them to get their job done with greater ease. But also what problems you’re continually solving for customers, and how a new system can be used to solve those issues instead. 

    • Review state and local statutes to compare them to what’s truly being asked of applicants. There may be an opportunity to reduce the length of your applications. Likewise, which of your forms need updating before moving to digital? Forms will never be perfect since requirements are constantly changing, but getting a good baseline ahead of time will better inform the RFP process, make for a smoother system buildout, and make future form updates easier to complete.

  • Establish and document baseline metrics. Finally, get an understanding of where your processing speeds are currently. How long does it take to process an application, service request, or investigation? Baseline metrics like production and quality rates, as well as customer satisfaction scores will enable you to track improvement once the technology is implemented and see which areas of the process require further adjustment.

Sure, this process takes more time and effort in the preparation phase, but it will save time and money in the long term. The right tech partner will see the value in a comprehensive RFP. And, ticking through all of these steps will help your organization identify areas where technology can assist in improving productivity, and employee and customer satisfaction.

Get the Quick Guide to Build a Better RFP for Digital Transformation Success

 
Pitfall #4: Going overboard on customization

Customizations are expensive, often unnecessary, and cumbersome to manage, update, and maintain. While the idea of custom-built software is an appealing proposition, it tends to lead to headaches down the road. Why?

Three primary disadvantages of customization:

  • Time –– it takes longer to stand-up in your organization

  • Cost –– often costs more than initially scoped

  • Maintenance –– highly customized systems tend to be difficult to maintain unless your implementation partner stays on to support updates over the long term

 When updates fall behind, the system slowly becomes less functional over time. To get their jobs done, users will inevitably create workarounds, which either results in technical debt or inefficiencies –– or both. It also leads to a system that is outdated in just a few years after implementation—a major waste of time and money.

Configurable systems offer the best of both the customized and out-of-the-box worlds. 

Primary advantages of configurable systems:

  • Time and cost savings –– by utilizing built-in workflows that can be configured to meet the unique functionality needs of your organization you save time and money 

  • Forward-compatibility –– allows the system to accept the input needed for updates or future version releases

  • Easy to maintain –– most teams with little to no technical expertise can easily maintain and update the system, which is a big appeal particularly in the licensing industry where even a simple line change on a form can take weeks to update in a complex system. Configurable systems empower the team to make simple changes like these in a matter of minutes, not weeks.
Pitfall # 5: Not establishing baseline metrics

When was the last time your team documented your organization’s processes or set benchmarks to measure performance? If you’re like most, it’s likely been a while, if at all.

But if you’re investing in licensing technology to help streamline and automate operations and accommodate a virtual workforce, establishing baseline metrics will help your team avoid the painful fate of implementing a solution that fails to deliver on expectations, which happens all too often.

And there’s another benefit. Going through this process will help your team identify and remove friction points in the customer experience, eliminate waste, identify automation opportunities and help breakdown internal silos, which is crucial as more teams move to a virtual model. Taking these steps will set your organization up for an effective system rollout and for success over the long term.

Begin with the customer in mind

The workflow documentation journey can feel overwhelming, and often the hardest part is knowing where to start. To avoid paralysis by analysis, start with one process and with the customer in mind.

Consider your services from the customers’ perspective. What is most important to the people you serve? Customers have grown to expect Amazon-like experiences—straight-forward, accessible, fast—across all facets of daily life, government services included. And ultimately, they care most about how fast they can obtain the license they need to start a business, start a new career, or stay in business.

Are there any steps in your current workflow that create friction in the process? This is an indicator of where to start the process mapping journey.

Start with one very specific process such as new applications or renewals. Don’t try to do both at the same time. Starting with one can help your team develop a model for other processes or workflows.

Define a clear start and stop point and describe the full scope of that process. For new applications, as an example, this will start from the time the applicant lands on your website to locate the online application through to the time they receive their license. Give this process a name and determine baseline metrics to help your team gauge improvement down the road.

Get inclusive and visual

The most productive operational audits involve stakeholders at all levels—from leadership to the frontline workers who support the process you’re examining. (Are you starting to detect a theme here?) This is the only way to get granular on specific steps involved.

A note of caution: There can be some trepidation among the team to expose areas of perceived or actual weakness. Reassure them that the objective is to improve workflows for everyone. It’s not an individual performance review or to pass judgment on those willing to point out perceived flaws in the process.

Before your team begins the audit, gather:

  • Copies of the application

  • Rules, policies, statutes, etc. that are part of the process 

  • Inputs and outputs. In the case of a new application, an input would be the application and an output would be the license. 

  • Steps and approvals that need to be obtained to keep the process moving forward 

Mapping these out visually for the entire team will help you more easily identify and revise any obstructions. Sticky notes on a whiteboard or wall work well for this because it promotes collaboration and granularity. Document each step on a separate note then have the team work together to add to, discard or move the notes around until the full process is defined and agreed upon. 

Flow chart tools like Visio or Bizagi also work well to not only draw out process flows but also assist in identifying areas of process improvement. 

Visual workflow audits will give a clear perspective on how your licensing organization’s process is, or is not, working. The outcome might surprise you.

Define baseline metrics

With the process documented and areas of improvement defined, you’ll be able to establish baseline metrics to track future performance against. If you’re implementing new licensing technology, this will be one way to gauge its efficacy and make adjustments sooner than later. 

In defining your key performance indicators (KPIs), measure quantitative and qualitative data with an emphasis on the analytics that indicate customer success and satisfaction. This could include:

  • Length of time to issue a license 

  • Net promoter scores (NPS) ––  a customer satisfaction benchmark that measures customer satisfaction and loyalty

  • Deficiency rates (for example, how often do you have to go back and ask a customer for more information)

  • The number of phone calls or emails customers make to your organization to understand what is required on the application

Plugging these data points into a tool like a Pareto chart will create an easy-to-follow visual for tracking improvement or for identifying what needs to be addressed first. 

If you don’t have these numbers documented, get your team to start tracking these points over the course of a week as they’re processing applications. Don’t leave this up to a best guess. Let the data lead you to the problems or areas in greatest need of improvement. This will paint a detailed portrait of your operation—from strengths to deficiencies—and strategically guide you to make decisions on which steps to automate and which to eliminate. 

Finally, start small. Rather than tackling a daunting overhaul of the entire operations, begin by identifying the most pressing issue and then expand after that problem has been corrected. Often, solving one problem area will inherently remedy other related problems. And when this process is combined with configurable solutions that support automation, the returns on your investment and your team’s efficiency will skyrocket.   

Pitfall #6: Failing to create a change management plan

People generally don’t like change, and that’s particularly true when it comes to their workflows. But when they’re involved in creating that change, it leads to greater success all around. As such, developing a change management plan starts with your stakeholders. 

By involving them from the beginning, they become your steering committee to build a better solution as well as internally advocate for it when it comes time to introduce it. If done correctly, you can use their experience to guide the creation of a training plan and supporting materials. 

Just keep in mind: Training is never a one-time event. It’s something that will need to be revisited as updates and new features are available. Training is critical to overall adoption and must be a priority.  

Future proof today to save valuable resources in the future

Government and technology have a complicated past. Many organizations have been burned by over-priced systems that never quite delivered on their promises. But more often than not, issues arise when organizations choose to partner with service providers that either don’t have the necessary industry knowledge or don’t have the bench strength to maintain support after the technology implementation has been completed. 

In other cases, the technology used is so customized and complex that it ties the organization to the provider for future upgrades or necessary coding changes. And, unfortunately, so few of these providers have the resources required to provide state organizations with the proper level of maintenance and technical support, which can quickly lead to an obsolete system.

Licensing technology worthy of investment will grow and adapt with your organization. It should be built to match the unique workflows of your various teams and departments, and it should evolve to keep up with changing regulations as well as industry needs and constraints. And because it evolves, it eliminates the need to reinvest in pricey technology every few years. 

Now that we’ve seen what’s possible, it’s time to future proof your organization against other potential disasters that could prevent in-off work and in-person delivery of services. Building a cloud-based infrastructure now will give your organization the flexibility to be able to carry out continuity plans no matter what the future may have in store. 

Need more? 

MST Solutions can help.
We’re a leading Salesforce CRM and technology integration partner specializing in the licensing sector.

If you need additional support, have questions, or would like to schedule a demo to learn more about the MST Licensing Solution for Salesforce, click here 

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