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Window on State Government

E-Government Task Force

Austin, April 3, 2000

Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander Hears E-Commerce Suggestions for the Public Sector in Houston

Integrating the Internet into the public sector will increase efficiency, effectiveness and customer service for constituents, according to testimony given at the e-Texas e-Government Task Force Public Hearing in Houston. Successful integration will also reduce the gap between people and government.

"The Web is not just about velocity, effectiveness and customer service," said Ro Parra, e-Government Task Force chairman. "It can also be a tool for democracy by rebuilding the frayed link between people and government."

Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander, as part of her e-Texas initiative, listened to testimony in Houston at a public hearing regarding the benefits of Internet implementation into government.

Major Issues

Major issues raised by panelists and audience members included:

  • Cost reductions stemming from online business practices,
  • Delivering services more quickly, and
  • Better customer service.

"Government, in general, faces unique challenges moving to the Web, but the challenge is much greater if it doesn't make that move," Parra said. "It's not just an issue of reducing cost, but to provide better customer service, build deeper relationships with constituencies and rebuild the public's confidence in government."

Panelist Commentary

The Internet leads to three areas of advantages for the public and private sector, according to Parra. Those three areas are:

  1. Velocity,
  2. Shrinking the gap between distance and time, and
  3. Bringing constituents closer to government services

Creating efficiencies by allowing customers to conduct government business online, cuts down on the time it takes to complete a task. The easier the access to government services, the better the experience to the customer.

According to John Bunn, Microsoft area manager, speed, efficiency and velocity will contribute to cost reductions and a better business experience in the business sector—whether it be business to business, business to employee, or business to consumer.

"Internal costs can be lowered with the use of the Web by improved employee morale and empowerment, better decisions being made faster, reduced process cycle times, and manage and share knowledge more effectively," Bunn said.

Microsoft works in a virtual "paperless" workplace. The Human Resources department is saving $1 million per year offering more services via electronic means. For example, it has eliminated 200-plus paper forms and now offers 24-hour service for its employees through online services. Expense reports at Microsoft are also filed electronically. In doing so, the company is saving $150 million per year, processing 3,000 reports a week, and employees are receiving reimbursements in three days, compared to the three weeks it took prior to electronic reporting.

"Much of the return is not measurable," Bunn said. "Employee morale is on the rise from receiving reimbursements in three days compared to three weeks. This is not measurable, but the return is great."

Brent Israelsen, iLumin Chief Executive Officer, said implementing enforceable electronic transactions using digital signatures is changing the way government does business.

"We are at the level of purchasing books, flowers and CDs over the Internet, the higher level to reach for is purchasing cars, houses and corporations," Israelsen said. "Digital signatures will allow this commerce." Israelsen points out that we already have interactive databases, but we still look to paper for official documents because, partly, the need for signatures. Digital signatures that are automated, auditable, enforceable and secure will allow complex transactions to be done electronically.

In Utah, where Israelsen is implementing the use of digital signatures in government,

  • The courts are able to e-file documents,
  • The Secretary of State's office is able to conduct business with corporations,
  • Human resources accepts forms from employees, and
  • The procurement process is being streamlined by filing contracts online.

Israelsen pointed out that trust is the leading barrier to implementing digital signatures.

"To gain trust, you start out small and narrow, and get the culture used to digital signatures," Israelsen said. "Different levels of security and layering out access availability is one method of earning trust."

Deborah Ball, Wells-Fargo Senior Vice-President of the wholesale Internet solutions team, discussed better customer service with the Internet.

Wells-Fargo was the first online bank. They proved to be very customer friendly, according to Ball. Getting to that point required a transformation in traditional business practices.

At Wells-Fargo, no closed offices can be found in the wholesale Internet division. The openness leads to more open conversation, and that leads to innovative ideas and business practices. It also eliminated the dress code, and made both the employees' office hours and location more flexible. The lack of an organizational chart rewards teams rather than individuals. The idea is that working together will lead to a better product.

This working environment has proved to be beneficial to Wells-Fargo. Wells-Fargo has increased revenue, increased customer loyalty, increased speed to the market and increased cost savings.

"One quick win at Wells-Fargo was being able to get something out to the market quickly that users find valuable," Ball said.

e-Texas is an initiative of Carole Keeton Rylander, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Post Office Box 13528, Capitol Station
Austin, Texas

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