The Aloha Way to Digital Transformation

Let customer experience lead and ROI will follow.

Hawaii is a state steeped in deep cultural traditions, yet the state balances preserving its rich history and culture with embracing modern ideas and technologies. One way Hawaii has done this is by taking an outside-in approach to new technology initiatives.

For instance, when elected to office, the governor of Hawaii promoted the idea of paperless workflows. But, like Hawaii’s traditional hula dance with its smooth flow of movements, the state wanted a graceful transition to going paperless. To launch this initiative, rather than focusing on which cutting-edge technology could do this best, the state took an outside-in approach. This means that they looked first at the customer experience, including the experience of their employees who would be using the technology, to determine the right solution rather than starting with the technology.

Just because our ancestors used an ‘o’o stick (digging stick) to dig their taro patches does not mean we won’t use a shovel. The values remain the same. The traditions evolve.

-Victoria Holt Takamine, Kumu Hula of Pua Ali‘I ‘Ilima and Instructor, The University of Hawaii

By looking at each touchpoint in the customer journey and identifying the causes of friction, the State of Hawaii’s CIO, Todd Nacapuy, could better understand where the process could be more “holo,” or fluid — whether that was onboarding new hires faster, automating paper-based interactions, or providing anywhere, anytime, mobile services. Then he took these insights and found the right technology to fit the customer or employee experience. This same process, or an outside-in approach, can work for any business that wants to achieve a higher ROI from their investment and deliver a better customer experience.

Why a technology-first approach doesn’t work

Hula is a beautiful dance, but there’s more to its grace and beauty than the motion of the hips. Similarly, when organizations embark on digital transformation initiatives to remain ahead of the competition, there’s a lot more to succeeding than just deploying new technology. However, many companies forget this and take a tech-first approach.

According to Altimeter’s “2017 State of Digital Transformation” report, less than half of companies making a transformation invest in understanding digital customers. Most, says the report, are failing to respond to customers’ new expectations or to the employee experience. Instead, under pressure to simply make the transformation, they focus on the technology.

The risk of this approach is that rather than avoiding disruption from emerging companies and technologies, they end up with a solution that is difficult to integrate with existing technologies and current workflow processes. As a result, their approach leaves them with security and compliance concerns, lower rates of adoption, and a reduced return on investment.

“The few that are getting it right start with an outside-in approach,” says Brian Solis, principal analyst and futurist at Altimeter. “They’re looking at something that is either broken or missing to solve a need, and then tie in ROI and key performance indicators (KPIs) to demonstrate progress and success.”

Hawaii has focused on the experience they want to deliver first, and they’ve let the technology follow. As a result, the state has seen a high return on investment, including the ability to do the following:

Less than half of companies invest in understanding digital customers

Source: Altimeter

The outside-in approach to customer-centric digital transformation

Here’s a look at the steps the state took to succeed:

  1. Determine what digital transformation means for your organization.
  2. Discover what’s missing or broken in the customer journey that you want to fix.
  3. Look for vendors who can partner with you and align to your back-end systems.
  4. Collaborate across business units or agencies to align on investment priorities.
  5. Empower employees with tools to improve internal workflow so they can do their jobs more successfully and improve the customer experience.
  6. Invest in ways to improve the customer experience and tie in ROI and key performance indicators (KPIs) to demonstrate progress and success.

1. Determine goals up front

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Hawaii could have decided to start by finding a technology that supported a paperless workflow, but instead they took a step back and started by thinking through exactly what they wanted to accomplish with paperless workflows. Their goals included the following:

By identifying the goals or outcomes they wanted to achieve, the state could then identify where in the process things were broken or missing in the customer journey that weren’t allowing them to achieve these goals.

2. Discover what’s missing or broken

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With an outside-in approach to embracing paperless workflows, Hawaii looked at where paper-based processes were broken or where there were poor customer experiences. Here again, they were able to hone in on a few key internal processes that if fixed would help them meet the goals they had previously set.

One of these broken processes was obtaining immunization forms for students. The traditional process of sending immunization forms home with students or asking parents to drop off signed paper forms was problematic. Forms were lost and there were delays in getting them returned by parents. The Department of Health therefore determined that by rolling out an electronic process to manage receiving signed immunization forms would make it easier for administrators and parents of the 18,000 students in K-12 public schools to comply.

Another internal process identified as broken was the state’s HR onboarding process. Newly hired state employees were spending two hours filling out onboarding paperwork on their first day. In addition, all state employees must sign about 30 documents a year on average — from annual tax documents to updated acceptable use policies. By moving to an electronic format, state employees could spend their work time more productively.

“Now that new hires’ onboarding can be done electronically, it has dramatically reduced the onboarding processing time from two hours to 20 minutes,” says Todd.

3. Look for the right vendor

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As Hawaii narrowed down what they wanted to accomplish by going paperless and which internal processes to fix first, they also made sure that they found the right vendor, one that could partner with them to be more customer-centric. Adobe Sign was considered not only for ease of use to get departments up and running quickly, but also for its strong integration with the state’s back-end systems and the many third-party solutions already used by state employees, like Microsoft SharePoint workflow.

“Being able to integrate Adobe Sign within existing SharePoint environments and department workflows gives state employees more options for an integrated solution to send and track documents,” says Todd.

The integration between Adobe Sign and SharePoint was also the right choice because it would simplify previously complex authorization workflows. Leave of absence forms have to be completed, routed, and signed by several managers if an employee is requesting extended time off. The authorizations can vary based on department, length of leave, and other factors. However, by integrating Adobe Sign into SharePoint workflows, the state can bring greater oversight and efficiencies to managing these requests. And because the state was already using SharePoint, their back-end systems were easy to integrate with Adobe, which natively integrates with Microsoft Products.

4. Collaborate across business units and agencies

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Hawaii also knew that collaboration would be critical to ensuring a successful transformation to paperless workflows, especially if they wanted to elevate the citizen experience and improve employee productivity, two of their primary goals.

So rather than mandating specific tools and workflows, the State of Hawaii wanted to offer scalable, versatile solutions that departments could adapt to their needs. With Microsoft already part of business unit and agency workflows, the seamless integration of Adobe Document Cloud applications was easy to adopt.

“Adobe is helping us keep the total investment at or below historic figures while adding innovative new features, including electronic signatures, increased accessibility, and enhanced access to creative solutions,” says Todd.

5. Empower employees

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To improve internal workflows so employees can do their jobs more successfully and improve the citizen experience, Hawaii implemented an end-to-end digital workflow that empowered them to do their jobs better and faster.

By making it easier to sign, share, and store important documents, employees can now complete these forms in a few clicks. This allows employees to focus on higher-value state business and roll out new services faster.

Similarly, by adding mobile-signing capabilities, the state’s employees and officials who were frequently traveling to meet with constituents are now able to sign on the go. Employees and government officials can sign anywhere, any time — and signed approvals are now returned within hours, not weeks.

6. Experience the magic of an outside-in approach

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The magic of hula is in the fluid and simple way the dance is performed. The magic of a successful digital transformation is also in making it simple to integrate with existing technologies and getting employees to adopt a new tool.

The governor of Hawaii promoted the idea of enhanced services through paperless initiatives because he recognized that the state could help government communicate more effectively across islands and deliver citizen services more efficiently while cutting costs and positively impact the environment.

But to achieve the best experience possible for employees and citizens, the solution needed versatility and flexibility to be used anywhere, anytime, and accommodate all types of mobile devices without using an app or having to log in. By starting with what the employees and citizens needed, or an outside-in approach, the state was able to determine that an Adobe and Microsoft integration would offer the most flexibility, align best with their back-end systems and existing technologies, and encourage adoption and improve processes inside and outside government. The results have delivered the magic Hawaii desired, including the following:

More importantly, the magic isn’t limited to Hawaii. According to a Forrester TEI study, organizations that use Adobe Document Cloud to lead their digital workflows have seen significant ROI follow, including the following:

It may not be hula, but it’s certainly a tradition any organization should want to follow.

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Alex Salkever, “Hawaiian Traditions Attract More than just Tourists,” The Christian Science Monitor, February 4,

Brian Solis and Aubrey Littleton, “The 2017 State of Digital Transformation,” Altimeter, October 2017.

Esther Shein, “7 Habits of Highly Effective Digital Transformations,” CIO, November 6, 2017.

Increasing government efficiency in the Aloha state,” Adobe customer story for the State of Hawaii, November

The Total Economic Impact of Adobe Sign,” Forrester, commissioned by Adobe, May 2017.