The Alabama Department of Revenue is taking meetings mobile by adopting Circuit by Unify across all 10 locations statewide. The application provides voice and video chat as well as documents collaboration from mobile and the desktop.
“The problem we were having was that we were getting inundated with emails, and then setting up meetings to talk about those emails. By the end of the day, we were spending all of our time meetings and we didn’t feel like we were getting any work done,” explains Julie Magee, Commissioner of The Alabama Department of Revenue in an interview with CivSource.”Because Circuit is available as a free app, we could download it and start using it right away without having to go through a bid process.”
Using Circuit to access instant video conferencing has allowed the Commissioner’s office to engage employees anywhere in the organization on a whole host of different topics and in any location. After joining Circuit, The Department adopted an ad-hoc communication structure that allows information to move up and down the chain.
“When I started, I wanted to improve communication and I asked managers to report back to me what the frontline folks were saying, but that didn’t happen. Government is very focused on maintaining heirarchy, and there’s an intimidation factor built in to speaking to the Commissioner. Employees out in a branch office who aren’t in a managerial position aren’t going to come talk to me on their own. But now I’m talking to people I haven’t spoken to in the four years I’ve been Commissioner. They feel comfortable sending something over the app,” Commissioner Magee explains.
Circuit works like a handful of chat applications out there for enterprise, and is gaining ground within the public sector. “Going forward, we’re planning to use Circuit to help us track revenue bills as they move through the legislature. When drafting a bill, we may go through 20 to 30 drafts before it’s finalized. We were using Lotus Notes for this before, but that software is going away so we wanted to find another solution early on,” the Commissioner says. The Department of Revenue is also using Circuit to train employees and help maintain the compliance program.
The Department of Revenue has been using Circuit to coordinate staffers during other organiational modernization efforts as well. The Department recently started working with LexisNexis to track fraudulent tax returns. “Alabama was heavily involved in the IRS hacks that happened during the last cycle, and the vendors we were working with knew the data had been compromised but kept letting people use the system. Since then, we’ve been part of the IRS Security Summit, and have implemented a 29 factor security matrix that we will require all of our vendors to follow during the next filing cycle. We are also working with LexisNexis on identity verification of taxpayers so that we aren’t paying out fraudulent returns. So far, we have stopped $3.4 million in refunds we would have otherwise paid out.”
The state is also streamlining car titles by running the titling process directly through car dealers. “We’ve almost made them state employees in a sense, and cut out the extra steps,” the Commissioner says. “We try to be savvy with how we use technology, it’s part of the culture here in the Department of Revenue.”