With more than 100,000 employees on the payroll, Karen Loquet of Los Angeles County knew the government had to do something to reduce the time burden and sheer number of forms that employees were required to fill out and process.
“In government, there are many, many forms, and so we looked at trying to improve those forms for our employees,” said Loquet, speaking at the Adobe Digital Government Symposium 2018 in Washington, D.C., on May 15.
So, the deputy audit controller set out to reduce the manual processes associated with payroll and create better, self-service systems for employees.
“With an over $30 billion budget, there’s a lot of paper flowing through the Los Angeles County … My goal was to get [the county] to move beyond paper.”
To do this, Loquet turned to Adobe’s Experience Manager Forms to integrate many of its existing platforms and, ultimately, eliminate much of the time that employees were spending filling in and filing payroll paperwork.
“We took the AEM platform and we integrated it with our active directory; we integrated it with our [electronic health record] system just to make it easier for the employees who were actually submitting the forms,” said Loquet. “I’m confident that we’re reducing time [for these employees].”
As part of its Centers of Excellence program, LA County is also pursuing similar projects that cut down on the manual process burden, often to the tune of hundreds of hours of time savings. An employee direct deposit program, for example, eliminated about 41,000 documents annually for the county across all 39 departments in Los Angeles County and the separate payroll departments and clerks that were previously tasked with processing those payments manually.
“You’re talking about $30,000 savings just to process that direct deposit versus manually,” said Loquet, who mentioned that upgrades to the county’s wire transfer process are next on the roster.
Touting the Centers of Excellence, she pushes IT professionals in local governments to ensure they are continuing to innovate in such a way. “As IT professionals, we should be looking at that innovation, making sure that the departments we serve and the different companies we serve, that we’re really being innovative for them,” said Loquet.
LA Jumps Cultural, Technical Hurdles on the Road to Self-Service
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Loquet as she moved forward to upgrade the IT underlying the self-service payroll experience. Both cultural and technical challenges underscored the undertaking.
“For us, we were upgrading to [Adobe AEM version 6.1] at the time and it was a very steep learning curve for my technicians,” said Loquet. To ease the challenges for technicians, Adobe came in and trained and certified Loquet’s IT staff on the new version before each employee was able to create AEM forms. “That was a really good process.”
Loquet also cautions counties or departments thinking of pursuing a similar change to ensure both IT and business teams understand the requirements from a compliance and user standpoint prior to pursuing a project.
“We ran into a couple of challenges because I really believe the requirements were not understood by both parties as well as they could have been, and, so, once we got those ironed out, we’re getting great products,” said Loquet.
Further, Loquet encountered cultural and management pushback, which she flags as the most difficult part of any technology project. To push through, she recommends approaching both government leaders and IT teams throughout the process to keep everyone on the same page.
“You do need that sponsorship from your IT managers, your leaders, your CEOs — you need to make sure you have people who are willing to invest in where you’re going. Then again, you definitely need the technicians on your side as well, so make sure they are squared away with the technology … and they have the tools that they need,” said Loquet. “The hard part is making sure that people can see the vision and where you’re wanting to go.”