It’s not just surf, sand and songs in Hawaii. The US state may just be showing the world the future of work.

The government is ditching lengthy paperwork and unnecessary meetings for a more nimble way of working. Documents are signed digitally on-the-go, and the state is focusing more time and resources on serving its citizens.

Here’s how they’ve done it.

Electronic signatures

Simply getting a paper signed by the right person was difficult in Hawaii, with citizens and employees across eight islands. Officials were frequently on the move for work, flying between islands to meet colleagues and constituents.

Service delivery was delayed as it took longer for agencies to review and approve documents – only made worse if it required multiple signatures. For instance, administrative directives had to be reviewed by two dozen managers.

Governor David Ige introduced the idea of a paperless government when he was elected to office in 2014. “Switching from paper-based forms to electronic documents allows us to improve public accessibility to government documents and increase transparency for our citizens by making it easier to store and retrieve documents,” he said.

Electronic signatures are a key innovation driving this change in Hawaii. “It’s the linchpin that allows us to push many workflows digital,” said Todd Nacapuy, former Chief Information Officer for the State of Hawaii.

E-signatures offer one of the easiest tools to accelerate paper-based processes, says Scott Rigby, Head of Digital Transformation, Asia Pacific at Adobe. “We’ve seen whole-of-government changes like the State of Hawaii, for instance, adopting electronic signatures across every type of citizen interaction that they have.”

$5mn saved

The State’s adoption of Adobe Sign means that employees can secure and sign documents from any type of device – a laptop, tablet or a smartphone. They don’t need a special app or even to be logged in on a government device.

“Mobile accessibility was a must to help us overcome our geographic challenges,” the State’s former CIO said. “By using Hawaii’s eSign Services, state personnel can sign with just a few clicks, so we can focus on state business and roll out new services faster.”

New hires to the government once spent two hours filling out onboarding papers on their first day at work. They can now complete these forms online at home and onboarding now takes just 20 minutes.

Electronic signatures and digital work have saved the state nearly $5 million over 2.5 years in paper, ink, printing and employee costs. The state has processed over 400,000 documents digitally, including authorisations, travel forms, spend requests and accounting forms.

Leading the way

Governments have an opportunity to lead the way in shaping the future of work. “All of these are opportunities for governments to be very nimble, leveraging digital forms and signatures to address some of the challenges that the citizens were facing at this point in time,” Rigby says.

The biggest challenge agencies face in moving to digital work is changing employees’ habits and behaviour. The approach that has worked best for many of Adobe’s customers is to deploy the new tools in key use cases that most staff would engage with. These everyday use cases will expose officials to new ways of doing things and help accelerate the process.

One of Adobe’s key differentiators in working with agencies is that it is a global and ubiquitous brand. Agencies can manage change to new ways of working better by giving staff tools that they are largely familiar with.

Hawaii has shown that an ambitious vision combined with the right tools can help government agencies adapt to new ways of working.