GSAS WebForms Site Is Catching On
The General Services Administration
has put hundreds of commonly used federal forms on a one-stop web
site. These GSA forms, Standard Forms, and Optional Forms can be
viewed, filled in, printed, e-mailed or faxed directly from the
Internet. This unique site eliminates the need for users to purchase
costly formfill packages and makes many commonly used government
forms easily accessible to federal agencies as well as the public.
The first issue of Access America
Online Magazine on October 2, 1998, carried the story
The Web Forms site was
later featured in the Federal
and Government Executive magazine and was introduced
to numerous federal agencies in a series of workshops last spring.
Johnny Young, now Director of Creativity
and Emerging Technologies in GSAs Office of Communications,
hoped that WebForms would be the first step toward a web-based repository
of all federal forms used by the public or federal employees. His
vision is coming true.
Over the past year, the WebForms site
has grown to more than 25,000 users, including about 3000 GSA employees.
Many users have accessed forms from the site 100 times or more.
Many agencies, including OPM, have created links to the site from
their own web pages, and several have purchased the DocNet software
for their internal forms.
Young told the Federal Times
"Forms move the government. What I try to do is eliminate,
as much as possible, the costs associated with completing and processing
of forms." The public has responded very favorably to the convenience
of online access, and costs for printing and warehousing paper forms
have been reduced significantly, according to Young. The addition
of features such as digital signature capability using Smart Card
technology and XML tagging for database integration is expected
to greatly increase functionality in the future, he said.
Background: GSA Turned a Major Problem into
a Visionary Solution
"When a previously-used proprietary
forms package became obsolete with the introduction of Windows 95
and NT technologies," Young said, "GSA was faced with the enormous
task of redesigning hundreds of widely used federal forms. We were
determined to avoid any proprietary limitations in the future, so
we sought a software solution which would digitally capture existing
forms images from virtually any design package and make them quickly
available to agencies and the public on the Internet.
"Many agencies have made significant
investments in design software with links to internal databases,"
Young continued. "Our goal is to provide the current, legally correct
images electronically for all government agencies without interfering
with their preferred design or workflow procedures. "
Web Forms Has Features to Help the User
Through a development partnership
with Intercon Associates in Rochester, New York, and Moore North
America, this vision became reality in the spring of 1998. The GSA
Web Forms site includes free DocNet TM web-fill software developed
by Intercon which can be downloaded once and launched as a helper
application each time a form is chosen to view or fill.
John C. Paroda, President, Intercon,
said "Since DocNets announcement, weve had an enormous
amount of interest. The response for our seminar attendance was
so overwhelming that we had to turn people away. Therefore, weve
decided to offer at least three more seminars in the fall. This
interest has led us to believe weve hit a home run not only
for us but also for the Government. Currently we are working with
strategic partners to develop other "tie-in" applications
to DocNet (not yet introduced), including software and hardware
products with true e-commerce functionality, which we expect will
get as much if not more attention than DocNet."
How WebForms Site Works
Those unfamiliar with official form
titles or numbers can use the Query Screen to search by Agency,
by keyword in the title, or by form type (i.e. personnel, legal,
budget and appropriations) to obtain a listing of all forms matching
the criteria selected. Additional forms being added daily to the
Jan Wendler, in GSA's Office of Communications,
said "It is not unusual to receive a call from a customer requesting
an urgently needed form to meet a contracting deadline. I can now
map the fields and make the forms available on the web within minutes
rather than weeks. Where electronic images are not available, I
can scan the existing paper forms and quickly map them as well."
People Love It
Response from federal agencies and
the public continues to be overwhelmingly positive. GSA has received
numerous e-mail letters from federal employees and the general public.
"They report time savings on key projects and express appreciation
for the convenience of accessing these documents," Wendler said.
How Agencies and Their Customers Can Benefit
Young believes that a governmentwide
site for all federal forms with related regulations and instructions
(in simple language) is one way to help meet the Vice President's
goal of interagency collaboration to achieve It solutions to serve
the public better. "Customers constantly express frustration that
there is no one location to search for documents. They spend hours
jumping from site to site hitting roadblock after roadblock," Young
said that cost savings in the millions of dollars could clearly
be realized based on the following factors:
- Reduced need for printing and warehousing
of paper forms
- No more obsolescence cost
- Reduced mailing costs
- Increased accuracy due to validation
rules in the forms as they are filled
- Faster routing of information/transactions
without traditional "paper-passing"
- Elimination of duplication of effort
across agencies to make the same forms and documents available
in many formats
- Reduced software license fees for
desktop filler packages.
For More Information
You can obtain more information on
this project from:
- GSA Office of Communications:
- Jan Wendler, 770-390-9696, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Johnny Young, 202-501-1961, email@example.com
- Ted Freed, 202-501-0492, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Intercon Associates:
John C. Paroda, 716-244-1250, http://www.interconweb.com
October 4, 1999