26 Apr 2016

When mobile technology took off, our patience for waiting for responses diminished. We were now able to call anyone, anytime, anywhere. Our expectation for instant communication surged. Then smart phones entered the scene. All of a sudden we were accessible on email anytime of the day or night, only taking a break when we slept.

We became accustomed to the benefits of instant, two-way communication and we expected it always.

But despite this, there is still one area of our lives where we hit send and receive nothing in return: when we submit forms and applications.

The Problem with Forms and Applications

You might be lucky enough to receive a generic automated email thanking you for your form or application submission, but chances are that's the only progress update or feedback you'll get. 

Despite our instant-communication world, it can be weeks or months before you hear anything. It is as if when you send your form or application goes in to a black hole. This can leave you with many questions.  Has someone even read it yet? Did it even reach the review panel? Does no news mean I've been unsuccessful? 

After waiting long enough, you may start contacting the organisation to ask these questions. And this is understandable. But fielding all those phone calls and emails is a waste of administration resources; especially when technology exists that can support two-way communication between an organisation and an applicant. 

Australian Government Recognises Benefits of Two-way Communication

The Australian Government is also starting to recognise the benefits of two-way communication. Its Digital Transformation Office is encouraging all new federal government web solutions to facilitate two-way communication between government and citizens.

But how do organisations implement two-way communication? Simple. They need applications that facilitate it.

An Example of How an Application Can Facilitate Two-way Communication

An example of an application that supports two-way communication is our OmniStar COTS product suite. Our OmniStar COTS product suite includes OmniResearch, OmniGrants, OmniEthics and OmniProjects. These products provide real-time feedback to applicants and stakeholders at just about any stage of a project. Here are a few examples of how.

  1. Prior to submitting an application, applicants can share their application or invite others to review and make changes to certain parts of the document. As well as making changes to the application, these stakeholders can communicate with one another through the system. The system will even let you know if information is needed or if more information is required when you submit. This gives you the chance to update your application with the relevant information and submit.
  2. After submitting an application, applicants can log on to get a progress update. It will let you know how your application is progressing through the review process and beyond. This is all via automated notifications and real-time updates.
  3. When an application is progressing through the review process, additional documents can be made available that may assist in the completion of the review, e.g. internal documents/notes, other assessment/consultancy/advice documentation, application supporting documentation, etc. Reviewers are able to communicate with each other or internal stakeholders for collaboration or clarification purposes.  As this is a assessment/review function, the details of the review are kept confidential and only visible to internal and approved staff. When a decision has been made on the application, high level feedback obtained from the reviewers/assessors can be provided to the applicant to help improve their future submissions. This is, of course, only if approval has been granted by internal staff.
  4. Just like the applicant gets progress updates about how the application is tracking, so do the reviewers. This includes an update of where the application reviews are at and what their status is of the review. If they raised a Conflict of Interest (COI) they can keep track of the internal assessment of this and whether changes have been made to allow them to continue, if required. This back-and-forth communication allows a seamless progression of the application process, and, quite possibly, a faster decision.
  5. Once an application is approved and moves into the management stage, there are a number of functions to facilitate two-way communication between stakeholders, such as providing comments on key milestones and reports, submissions of additional forms and information dissemination via letter and email generation and tailored dashboards and reports.

Benefits of Two-way Communication During a Forms/ Application Process

  • A more seamless forms/ application process thanks to the ability to provide instant feedback, seek clarification and interact between sender and receiver.
  • Higher engagement throughout the process.
  • A fairer/ higher quality application process thanks to being able to easily ask questions or for missing information.
  • A more enjoyable experience.
  • Reducing additional administrative overhead in fielding enquiries and providing details as the process is transparent and automated.

 

When you consider what an application or form is – a request for information about someone or something – it makes sense that applications supporting these process should also support the ability for ongoing conversations to take place. In today’s technology-driven world, this type of two-way communication is expected and appreciated. With the right software application, it is easy to facilitate. And it offers a range of benefits to everyone involved.