Merriam, KS, Improves Digital Experience with OpenCities and OpenForms


For the Human Resources team at the city of Merriam, Kansas, tackling inefficient paper-based employee workflows was one way to streamline internal processes and serve a remote workforce more effectively. The COVID pandemic created worldwide ripple effects that agencies still deal with daily. One of those impacts — changes to the availability of employees in the workforce — continues to present challenges to both private and public employers.

That’s where OpenForms came in. Using OpenForms, the City’s HR team was able to deploy a new HR workflow in a matter of hours. This new process featured forms that helped connect new employees with their benefit forms.

The team at Merriam used OpenCities to create two new websites – one for resident services and one for visitors – and implemented OpenForms to quickly build and deploy new workflows that turned a paper-based process into a new interactive digital service. By implementing a new HR workflow with forms that helped connect memberships and benefits for new hires versus existing employees, Merriam employees are hoping to find a more efficient process for handling HR needs and connecting workers with their city benefits.

From Painpoint to Relief

The previous system was completely paper based, according to Lauren Krivoshia, Merriam’s UX Lead and Service Designer, which left employees confused and frustrated.

“It was a painful process,” she said. “Not just because you had to fill out a variety of forms, but also once you submitted the documents, you had no visibility to whether it was approved, or still in process.”

The process wasn’t just confusing for employees filling out the form, but also for the HR team on the back end having to review hundreds of pieces of paper.

“The workflow eliminates burdensome paper shuffling that HR departments have had to live with for so long,” said Human Resources Director Stephanie Thompson.  “By moving to a digital format, the process is streamlined and simplified for all parties. The administration is not drowning in paper and the employee feels empowered. Which is important because the future of work depends upon empowered employees.”

A move toward digital solutions during COVID opened the door to taking a closer look at internal workflows, she added. As a result, the team at Merriam is now able to more rapidly deploy digital services using OpenForms – not just for internal processes, but also to make it easier for the City to help serve residents better. Because the tool isn’t custom coded, Merriam staff can be much more responsive and agile, and easily iterate processes to ensure those new digital services help deliver desired outcomes.

“We’re not a large city with a huge staff,” said Krivoshia. “What’s great about OpenCities and using OpenForms is it’s an intuitive enough system that even non-techies can build a solution with easily. It doesn’t matter that we don’t have a ton of IT staff because anyone can learn to use the system to improve their digital services.”

A Quick and Responsive Relationship

Over a few hours in May, the team was able to create new forms that were accessible and mobile-responsive where previous solutions had no digital form capabilities at all. Their new forms allowed for signature capture as well as the ability to quickly and easily attach photos or documents if needed, even if users were using a mobile phone.

Then, with the help of the one-to-one relationship with OpenForms tech support, the team was able to create back-end workflows that routed requests to the correct department based on user response. Employees who submitted the form now receive clear and consistent email communication about where they are in the process and what action they need to take, if any. They spent some time testing the workflows enjoying a one-to-one relationship with OpenForms tech support to find the optimal efficiency.

Through the work on their new websites with OpenCities, the Merriam team was able to take a deeper consideration of design, UX, and user paths through the digital experience. By journey-mapping the process and using the workflow tool to visualize and identify the points where user experiences diverge by audience, the team was able to create a system where requests are now processed in minutes instead of days.

“This has really created an opportunity to think about the overall user experience of our digital services and how to take difficult processes and make it simpler,” said Krivoshia. “OpenForms has kinda spoiled me with its features.”

Learn more about how OpenCities and OpenForms can help create new efficiencies in your agency.

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