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Wisconsin DSPS Launches a Licensing Platform to Support the State


"Forward!" It is Wisconsin's motto and what drives the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS).

"Forward!" It is Wisconsin's motto and what drives the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS).

"Our mission definitely reflects Wisconsin's motto," affirmed Dan Hereth, DSPS assistant deputy secretary, "which is to protect the public and support the professions and industries that we regulate so that they can continue to move forward."

Responsible for promoting economic growth and stability in the state of Wisconsin, DSPS licenses and regulates more than 200 types of credentials (think pharmacists, registered nurses and dental hygienists) to ensure both the protection of trade professions and of Wisconsinites. "Our job is to make sure people who are ready to enter the workforce can do that as easily as possible," said Jennifer Garrett, DSPS director of public affairs.

It is an important responsibility with real impact. "What we do touches every single person in the state of Wisconsin," said Hereth, making smooth and transparent access to services vital for all constituents. “Our primary customers are those who hold occupational licenses, but our work affects every resident of the state when you consider all the activities we regulate and the services our license holders provide.”

Hereth says that as leadership considered the agency’s broad reach, economic impact and high volume, it became evident that DSPS needed to modernize operations and meet people where they are and where they expect to do business: online, in the cloud. For Hereth, Garrett and team, that also meant ensuring information is readily accessible, applications run smoothly and processes are clear to applicants and other stakeholders.

We saw investing in the modernization of our office as an investment in the people of Wisconsin.
DSPS was focused on transformation — and (as the song goes) on Wisconsin.

Throughout all process improvements, DSPS prioritizes the needs of and impact on customers. With the age of paper applications rapidly coming to an end, agency leadership realized they needed to streamline and modernize processes to provide a customer-oriented system that included:

  • An anytime, anywhere customer-service experience: "We wanted a self-service system where somebody who is interested in becoming licensed can complete their application when they want to - even at 3:00 a.m. or on a Sunday," said Steve Van Der Weide, DSPS director of IT.
  • A mobile-first strategy that put the consumer experience at the forefront: "We wanted to make sure that it worked where applicants are already doing business, and today that means mobile devices," said Garrett.
  • Real insight from their data: "We're looking closely at workforce trends," said Hereth, "and want to better use the information we collect to make sure that resources are being applied in the best possible way."

Ultimately, Wisconsin DSPS needed a simplified, user-friendly environment that initiated and supported a process that was self-guided, easy to use, efficient and durable. It needed to be scalable to service the needs of Wisconsin citizens today and in the future. “We were hungry to find the right balance between a solid workforce of employees and the right technology to back them up,” added Garrett. “For us, that looked like finding a system that would enable and empower the work our employees were doing with the right tools but would also give more control to our applicants.”

Garrett and team capitalized on a forward way of thinking as they evaluated systems, looking for something that would allow them to meet their customers where they were and get them working faster, all while keeping the public safe. “Ultimately, we saw investing in the modernization of our technology system as an investment in the people of Wisconsin,” added Garrett. “When we can quickly and accurately license people, they can get to work and meet the growing needs for professional services across the state.” This keeps the economy thriving, as license holders support their families, establish roots in communities and patronize other local businesses.

DSPS introduces an agile, accessible, customer-first platform.

The team deployed an occupational licensing system using the Licensing, Permitting and Inspections app on the FedRAMP-authorized Salesforce Customer 360 Platform for Government. This is an online, automated, self-service platform that guides customers through the steps and forms required to obtain a license, initiate an investigation or update their credentials. The self-guided application and renewal platform will also replace paper application forms and previous renewal tools.

The customer journey starts with the initial engagement of the community portal built on Experience Cloud. They log on to the system where they create a profile, fill out basic information, select the type of license they are either applying for or renewing, upload documents, pay fees and more. Protecting this personal data is critical, so Shield was added to bring an additional layer of security to the system and to support DSPS' compliance with the federal government standards.

Once an application is submitted, it goes directly into the queue of a DSPS reviewer. This is where the initial analysis of the submission takes place, ensuring that the applicant has satisfied all the licensing or renewal requirements. "Automating the receipt and deposit of information across systems helps our staff work more quickly and efficiently as they're reviewing,” said Garrett.

DSPS now can surface the kind of data-driven insights that lend to smarter decision-making, particularly as they look at workforce trends and needs across the state. "We were modeling things on a state level, and to be able to do that at the county or municipality level reveals some really fascinating information," said Hereth.

We were hungry to instill the right balance between a solid workforce of employees and the right technology to back them up. For us, that looked like finding a system that would enable our employees but also support the greater needs of Wisconsin.

Real data leads to real results and impact across the state.

The project took about six months to implement. And while the full impact of the new system will not be realized until all agency services are integrated, the potential to leverage the data is already clear.

"The workforce trends that the data will reveal, particularly with health care, will be invaluable," said Garrett. "This information can help other state agencies to understand provider availability and inform programs to address staffing shortages in underserved communities.”

For example, the data can help the state tap into federal funding available to support the expansion of care in designated Health Professional Shortage Areas. "Funding levels are tiered based on how comprehensive your data is," explained Van Der Weide. “That means that better data directly translates into increased and better access to services for Wisconsinites.”

The platform has benefits for the agency as well. By enabling more customer service-oriented tasks, the system has helped to not only balance work internally but it also makes sure tasks are in the right place with the right person at the right time. "The same staff members who review applications were also doing a lot of the data entry and document sorting," explained Garrett. "The automation of those tasks allows them to focus on evaluation and decision-making, which is ultimately more meaningful work for them and a better use of their time and expertise."

“Building a system on the cloud opened the door to a lot of opportunities for DSPS," said Van Der Weide. "We can scale our systems and processes easily, quickly ramping on different services and functionalities depending on what we need. Any upgrades are built directly into this environment, and that frees up time."

The team believes that DSPS is just one example of the opportunity for government modernization - and that more is possible.

"There's this idea that government is always bureaucracy, that systems are always flawed, that it's always going to be more difficult," said Hereth. "And we can show people that this doesn't have to be true. It's possible to do business with the government easily and seamlessly."

"Again, our investment in the technology is an investment in our ongoing mission and in the people of Wisconsin," said Garrett. “This is good not only for our license holders, but for us all who rely on the services they provide – which is all of us.”