Tech Success: State Department recruits GovDocs
- By Brad Grimes
- Jan 23, 2004
Application service provider automates e-mail communications
GovDocs CEO Scott Burns said government agencies could see a 200 percent return on investment using GovDelivery e-mail automation.
How can an agency communicate with citizens who may visit occasionally, but don't regularly check the agency's Web site? Through targeted e-mail.
A Web site that's easy to use is an important element of agency efforts to improve communications with constituents, employees and potential recruits. But research shows that Internet users are far more likely to check their e-mail than visit a government site. Thus, e-mail is becoming the focus of many e-government upgrades.
The State Department's recruitment office was using a listserv application to broadcast messages to people about new jobs, internships, training and related information. The problem, said Diane Castiglione, the State Department's recruitment director, was that everyone who subscribed got the same information.
"If we wanted to say that summer internship applications were now being accepted, it went out to 6,000 people, a good number of whom couldn't have cared less," Castiglione said.
As the State Department began upgrading its recruitment Web site, it decided to explore ways of generating traffic and sending messages directly to the people most interested in recruiting information. Castiglione proposed outsourcing of e-mail communications to St. Paul, Minn.-based GovDocs Inc., which could automate the process.
GovDocs is an application service provider, meaning it runs its own software on its own servers, and rents out solutions on a monthly or yearly basis.
"The California Department of Insurance began using our solution and stopped sending out mailings and faxes they'd been sending," said Scott Burns, GovDocs' chief executive officer. "They were able to save $250,000 in the first year."
The State Department launched GovDocs' GovDelivery e-mail subscription management service for its recruitment Web site last November. Castiglione said it took less than a month to get the service running. The prep work involved going through the Web site and deciding what information to communicate via e-mail and where to place signup links.
The recruitment office also tailored GovDocs' e-mail templates to reflect the way it wanted to communicate.
"We wanted to make it easier for customers to get information and make sure they got just the information they needed," Castiglione said.
After the recruitment office decided what information it wanted to e-mail, GovDocs built customized Web links. When visitors click on those links, they can subscribe to targeted e-mail subscriptions that go out only when the State Department has new information to communicate. These e-mails contain links to the Web site to help drive additional visits.
Today, instead of one blanket e-mail, the State Department's recruitment office offers 45 individual subscriptions covering everything from job announcements to updates on coming exams.
Because the system is only two months old, Castiglione said she measures its success by the number of subscriptions the State Department has received.
"We used to have 6,000 people on our listserv. Now we have 16,000 individual subscribers," Castiglione said.
With each person subscribing to an average of nearly three mailings, the State Department recruitment office is sending out more than 45,000 regular e-mail messages. With the Foreign Service exam coming up, she said she expects traffic and subscriptions to increase significantly.
GovDocs has worked with many government agencies, particularly at the state and local level. Burns said that most agencies see a 20 percent to 50 percent increase in Web site use, and a 200 percent return on investment in the first year from using the GovDelivery system.
"We ask governments, 'What is it worth to you to have somebody visit your Web site?' " Burns said. "They have an easy time believing a Web site visit is worth 50 cents to $1.50. When somebody visits, you're deferring a phone call, deferring a visit or improving a relationship."
GovDocs sells its service direct through value-added resellers. Agencies can find it on the General Services Administration schedule. Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services Inc. sells GovDoc solutions primarily to state and local agencies, while Herndon, Va.-based JB Cubed Inc. resells the service to the federal market.
"Name anybody in the government, and they'll tell you that service to the citizen is key," said Jim Beaupre, JB Cubed's CEO. He said the company has deals with four agencies, and eight more are waiting for funding. The Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration, Postal Service and others are considering the solution.
Pricing for GovDocs' GovDelivery service varies based on the size of the implementation, and has an installation fee and monthly charges. Burns said costs on state and local contracts typically run between $10,000 and $200,000 up front and 10 percent of that per month. At the federal level, the upfront costs can run as much as $500,000.
He said systems integrators are showing interest in bundling GovDocs' service with other e-government solutions. GovDocs has revenue-sharing agreements with some integrators that generate consulting revenue.
"This is a really easy win for systems integrators and e-government efforts," Burns said. "It's easy to get up and running ... so systems integrators see that it's something they can deliver to clients or potential clients in a reasonable period of time and give them an immediate benefit."
If you have an innovative solution that you recently installed in a government agency, contact Staff Writer Brad Grimes at email@example.com.