Montana Governor Greg Gianforte, long a proponent of state-of-the-art technology, issued a challenge after his election to all state agencies to see which department would be first to become 100 percent digitized.

The winner was announced this week, and KGVO News spoke with the Montana Department of Commerce which was the first to complete the Governor’s challenge.

Director Scott Osterman provided details on how his agency, one of the state’s largest, met the all-digital challenge.

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“The governor issued the challenge for modernizing how our agencies function and a big piece of that is essentially going to a fully digital format and relieving us of a lot of paper burdened processes and manual types of processes,” began Osterman. “Basically, there was a challenge to see who could be 100 percent digital-first, and we took on that challenge, thanks to the governor's initiative, and we're able to really improve efficiency. We just started on the first of July and flipped the switch to optimize our ability to perform for Montana.”

Osterman said his agency, with so many different departments, successfully reconfigured its entire workflow from a paper format to a digital format.

“In any digital optimization, you analyze all your workflow and have to turn that workflow through a process of then bringing it into the host operating tool which in this case was ‘Service Now’, and then to translate from paper processes or certain manual communication processes into essentially the digital workflow that allows ‘part A to go to part B to go to part C’, but do it without paper without email and just do it automatically through a system.”

Now, Osterman said any customer can much more easily access the services of the Montana Department of Commerce.

“We want to make things simple, so that the ability to apply for a grant or a loan or to engage with us is something that can be, at least initially, as simply done, as, you know, from two or three screens of a smartphone interface and just make it easy for Montanans to engage the programs and the offerings that we have.”

Osterman said the steps successfully taken by the Department of Commerce can now be easily adapted to all other state agencies.

“We will be sharing with some of the other agencies that we can have a template that can be replicated,” he said. “Plus going first means that we pioneered the way. We had great help from some of the IT staff and some of the other agencies in the team to be able to do this. It's a coordinated approach so that what was learned in this process can be populated into the rest of state government across the entity.”

The Governor’s office added, ‘this ongoing effort is focused on improving the way state government provides services to citizens while also saving taxpayer money, including by digitizing forms, moving from a cost-ineffective mainframe to the cloud, providing a one-stop portal for questions, and bringing a cohesive look and feel to state platforms’.

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