Local SmartForms make council services more accessible

As businesses increasingly find themselves in a time poor world, the ability to streamline processes and reduce red tape becomes even more critical. The Local SmartForms initiative has done just that, creating a world first by using the Australian Government’s existing SmartForms licensing arrangement with Adobe to make council services easily accessible to businesses using existing software.

This project involved a consortium of 41 New South Wales councils from across the State, a target audience of at least 136,000 small businesses, and a seven month implementation timeframe.

Local SmartForms is an online service that streamlines interactions between Local Government and local businesses. The initiative uses innovative technology to consolidate more than 1,600 paper forms into 21 dynamic PDF SmartForms and deliver them to businesses via a shared platform called FormCentral.

Using Local SmartForms, businesses can access council forms online at any time, and fill them out at their leisure.

The consortium of 41 councils, lead by Rockdale City Council, established an eForms working group to decide which forms to target, reviewed their purpose and determined how they could be simplified. This involved overcoming obstacles such as individual council branding, urban/regional variations, and capacity gaps for councils and businesses.

The forms where subjected to a thorough peer review by council staff, as well as independent usability testing from potential customers. The consortium also conducted a review to highlight how council processes would need to change to take advantage of the improved efficiencies provided by the forms.

The significant outcomes include:

  • $10.50 return for every project dollar spent
  • a 35 per cent improvement in data accuracy which equated to a $2 million business improvement for one council.
  • reduced time and costs by minimising processing times, reduced holding costs and delivered significant efficiency gains.
  • support for local business and therefore local economic development
  • development of consistent forms leading to more predictability in application and regulatory processes.

Key features of Local SmartForms are:

  • inbuilt validation helping customers complete the form accurately the first time
  • dynamic forms only presenting questions the customer needs to complete, thereby making forms appear less intimidating
  • efficiency in processing once submitted resulting in accelerated processing times
  • ability for users to save forms to their computers, fill in and approve with a digital signature
  • user friendly for anyone, including people with vision impairments to read and use.

“Businesses use a single transaction process to apply, calculate fees, pay and submit,” said Greg Smith, Director City Services at Rockdale City Council.
“And, importantly, they can submit forms electronically, even when an ink signature is legally required, and can save partially completed forms offline.”

An attractive feature for businesses is that the system uses modular components to make the forms consistent.

The shared service makes it easy for new councils to join the service and take advantage of the collaborative efforts of the collective group.

“There has been interest from a number of councils that were not part of the original project which demonstrates the benefits that SmartForms can bring to a council and its community,” Greg Smith said.

For further information contact Greg Smith, Director City Services at Rockdale City Council on (02) 9562 1789.