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Podcast | Agents of Change

Moving at the speed of government

Kristen Jensen

Who is behind the scenes solving problems and uncovering issues? That’s what Conga’s Agents of Change has set out to discover.

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Below is a transcript of the episode, edited for readability.

Jason Gabbard: As an anthropologist, you might imagine a career uncovering ancient secrets related to our species or gaining deeper understanding as to how we got to where we are today. And you might think you’d uncover these insights through deep study, research, and exploration. And that could all very well be true. But you could also find that gaining these deeper insights into how we as humans function could be uncovered in a local government office in Utah. 

An agent of change often finds that they uncover opportunities by taking a similar approach. Who would have thought that a career in government contracts would carry so much similarity? 

Now we’re all familiar with the cliches about government work. Things move painfully slow if they even move at all. And there is some truth to that. The speed with which business moves today — requires even local government offices to move with a stronger sense of urgency. 

It’s interesting, isn’t it? We don’t often think of our government as operating like a business — with projects that need to be managed, deadlines that need to be met, and processes that need to be streamlined. But it is certainly the case. 

I learned this recently when speaking with Kristen Jensen, Senior Systems Strategist with the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Okay, so that’s a mouthful. So we’ll call them GO-ED for short.

And at GO-ED they have a huge responsibility, which entails overseeing the state’s economic growth and continued health. This includes managing a number of grant and tax credit programs that help develop the economy. In short, there is a lot of money on the line.

The problem is, each of these grants and tax credits results in a contract for the participating company. And there is a lot of them, which means the state department has a lot of paperwork to keep track of. And this is where those old government adages come into play because when I say paperwork, I mean literal paper. And the time spent tracking all of this paper was enormous.

Enter Kristen, who was at the center of this issue when she moved into the department. She has been working with the state of Utah for 20 years, but interestingly enough, her background isn’t related to this type of work at all. No she was on the quest to be an anthropologist and instead of uncovering scientific understandings around humans — she uncovered ways that technology can increase government efficiencies. 

Kristen Jensen: I have a degree in anthropology and it has nothing to do with what I do right now. I think I got into technology and information technology because I saw opportunities for solving problems and I am passionate about solving problems.

Jason Gabbard: The good news for Kristen and surprising news to me is that GO-ED has been a user of SalesForce for a decade. So in a sense, even though there was a big problem to solve, they were already set up for a solution that would make their paper trail problem disappear. They just needed someone to roll up their sleeves and dig in.

Kristen Jensen: The governor's Office of Economic Development had been using Salesforce for nearly 10 years, which is a long, long time for state government. And when I moved, I have worked for the state for 20 years. And so I was really excited to move into a mature org and help them take it to the next level.

Jason Gabbard: If you are like me, you might be wondering why the state of Utah is using SalesForce. The answer is fairly simple. Just like every business, GO-ED has contacts to keep track of. Keeping track of each of the involved parties in these numerous grants and tax credits requires the need of a robust CRM. Furthermore, because of the high turnover rate in government employees, Salesforce was vital in simply keeping track of who was who.

Kristen Jensen: We talk a lot about how to define a customer when you're in the public sector. 
It's really anybody who is the recipient of the work that you do.

So that ranges from citizens to investors, companies, state and local or other local governments that work with US partners. And our uses of the CRM is, I think, really critical to surviving that constant change that I mentioned earlier, because we have a lot of we have high turnover here at the governor's office of Economic Development. And every time somebody leaves, they take all of their knowledge with them.

And where that most of that knowledge is their network.
The people that they know and the relationships that they formed. And so that's where the CRM really becomes critical to an agency like ours moving forward instead of just having to go back to zero every time somebody leaves. 

Salesforce is the foundation underneath our entire agency, and it helps us to survive that turnover and the constant change that we see in government.

Jason Gabbard: So with a solid CRM in place, Kristen and her team set out to solve the big outlying problem. What to do about all of these paper contracts? And how to re-think a model in which everyone seemed to have their own way of handling.

And it quickly became apparent that automation was key to success. Instead of simply digitizing the existing process, Jensen and her team took the time to reevaluate where it was flawed and reinvent their entire workflow, with automation as the centerpiece. 

Because not only would automating their contract process help simplify their internal communications and organize their documentation, but it would speed up the overall time it took to get grants approved and get money into people’s hands.

Kristen Jensen: Because our programs are focused on tax credits or grants, being able to execute these contracts in a timely manner and automate the pre-processes before the contract happens and the compliance and execution after the contractors is signed, that really just gets money into people's hands a lot faster. And that helps us to. Perform our mission.

Jason Gabbard: With Contracts for Salesforce solution implemented, the time spent from contract generation to signature decreased drastically. Now, after the office reviews each application and makes an award, it is now just one simple step.

Additionally, the development of a clause library made it easy to select the correct language for the contracts every time — cutting risk and shortening the negotiation timeline considerably, since an attorney doesn’t have to review every single contract. 

Kristen found a way to not only simplify GO-ED’s complicated contract process but to increase time efficiency and create transparency throughout the office. She and her team now know where every contract is, which ones need follow-up, and what their status is in the process. 

An added benefit uncovered was that of flexibility as they continue to iterate on and automate other aspects of their internal processes.

Kristen Jensen: I'm responding to requests for enhancements in the platform. I've spent the last two weeks working on new templates for Conga templates for contracts. I'm one of the things that I thought was thinking about when we when I was preparing for this. Podcast was that we get new programs at least once a year. We'll have some pretty radical changes in the programs and every single one of those new programs is going to require a new contract. And I've got new contracts coming at me all the time. And so I'm opening up my Conga and I'm using templates and I'm trying to standardize how those are so that we can how those templates look so that we can scale quickly and respond quickly to the programs that come out.

Jason Gabbard: Contracts are a crucial component of every business. That’s something everyone can agree on. But just as we’ve heard today, they can also slow you down because they’re often complicated, time-consuming, hard to finalize, and even harder to track.

With our intelligent Conga contracts solution, it’s easier than ever to draft, negotiate, approve, store, and analyze every agreement. Since implementing these changes, the time spent on the process of generating, negotiating, and signing a contract has decreased by 75 percent. And as Kristen likes to put it, transparency has increased 100 percent from their confusing email-and-paper-based process.

Yet for all of the progress Kristen and her team have made, they still have problems to solve, which is something that drives her. Because you can’t simplify every government process overnight.

Kristen Jensen: I do think that having even though we digitize our processes and we go and automate, we still very much think in an 8.5" x 11" world. And so Conga and its document generation is really critical to adoption and making users feel comfortable with this new environment so that you can take it beyond that simple substitution and actually transform to new ways of doing things because they have that familiar format.

Jason Gabbard: Even though GO-ED is now operating at a higher efficiency than ever before, Kristen still has to work to gain buy-in from other government employees and departments. 
We have all been there. Change can be scary. But as Kristen is finding, when people actually put the new methods and tools to work, the experience speaks far louder than anything she could articulate about the success her own team has seen.

Kristen Jensen: There are people who don't understand what the changes are going to do to them. One of the products that we built on the Salesforce platform was a way for us to manage our travel requests and reimbursements internally. And we had one agency within our one program within our agency that said, well, we'll do it for those that we have to. But we're not. We're going to do it a different way for the ones that you don't force us to use it for. Well, six months into it, they're like, oh, that doesn't suck. We'll use this system for all of them. Even though we don't have to. So I think being patient with people and allowing them to learn for themselves the value of all of the tools that you're delivering is really important.

Jason Gabbard: So there is still work left to do. But in the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, change is already making a big impact. So what’s the takeaway here? Who was responsible for impact? How this specific role was key in solving this issue and the challenges they had to overcome. What’s the impact of this story for you? What kind of impact can you make?

So that’s the story. On our next episode, we’ll hear from another agent of change who is making an impact on their business. If you are feeling inspired to make your own impact, you can learn more at conga.com.

In the meantime, you can stay up to date on each of our episodes by subscribing on your favorite podcast app. We’d also love if you would be willing to leave a review on Apple Podcasts.

Until next time, stay driven.