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What Should You Budget for a Digital Licensing Solution?


Most organizations are expected to undergo digital transformation at some point as establishing a digital business has become top of mind across nearly every industry. According to IDG, 91% of organizations have adopted, or have plans to adopt, a “digital-first” business strategy. And for many, this has become a very urgent reality over the last several months.

Still, there’s one common barrier that often stands in the way of most digital transformation starts and tends to inhibit digital business success –– and that’s budget.

Despite this being one of the biggest impediments to digitizing an organization, no one ever talks about what digital transformation costs and how to maneuver around it when you are in fact operating within the confines of a limited budget.

In the world of professional licensing, this has become a very real dilemma as organizations are not only having to figure out how they can deliver services to citizens virtually but also create an experience that’s as good as, if not better than, what they experience in their consumer lives. This means migrating away from manual, paper-based forms, limited hours of service, and transactions that require in-person visits.

Though there is a tremendous need to open up self-serve digital channels within licensure, most organizations simply don’t have the budget to undergo a complete digital overhaul. The good news is, the transformation doesn’t have to happen all at once. It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. There are ways to minimize your costs while maximizing your return.

It starts by getting laser-focused on the areas of business that represent the biggest sources of revenue or those that cause the most waste. Then you have to align with a technology solution, like Salesforce, that enables expansion over time.

Here’s what this phased approach might look like and what you can expect to invest at each tier.

Phase 1: Set the Foundation

Just as with anything you build, there needs to be a base — a starting point. And it needs to be stable, functional, and act as the building blocks for your entire structure — or in this case, your organization.

Thus, the first step toward digital transformation would start with the implementation of a configurable, cloud-based CRM like Salesforce. Within this phase, you should expect to end up with a customer-facing portal that enables self-service and 24×7 accessibility from any device. The system should handle your licensing organization’s most basic, but most critical functions like application and complaint intake, renewals, and status checks. Internally, it should help free your team of manual data entry and create a 360-degree of the customer.

If you’re working with an implementation partner, you should also expect:

  • Configuration support
  • Training support and documentation
  • System documentation
  • The ability to go live in weeks not months

Ultimately, this should provide your organization with a fully digitized licensing solution that expands the hours of service beyond the standard 9-to-5 and saves your team hundreds of hours in manual processes.

In terms of budget, a solution like this would range between $200,000 to $295,000 depending on the solution and the functionality. But you should expect to realize the immediate benefit and be positioned to add functionality as budget allows.

Phase 2: Migrate Data

At this point, after the team and the customers have had an opportunity to adopt and adapt to the new system, you’ve likely identified some areas in need of process improvement or digitization. You can begin to add functionality based on priority like scheduling, chatbots, service requests, or remote inspections.

This next phase might also involve data migration as your organization moves away from on-premises infrastructure to cloud-based storage and applications. This migration is often not something you want to take on internally unless you have a robust IT team with the time and resources to execute it properly.

Data migration can be complex as it often entails disentangling data and applications to define:

  • How data will be integrated into the organization
  • How that data will be customized over time
  • How the data will attract other data as it grows

This requires looking at application design, data architecture, and business processes to ensure the infrastructure is as pure as possible. This is an important phase that should be treated as a competitive strategy. If outsourcing this to a reputable partner, you should expect to budget an additional $100,000 to $250,000.  

Phase 3: Automate & Integrate

At each phase of this progression, additional functionality can continue to be added. However, the key assets at this phase are automation and process improvement through API and data integration.

Automation features will allow your organization to reduce manual labor and improve customer communication and transparency, while key integrations allow you to pull and push information from other agencies and vendors. At this point, you should budget an additional $250,000 to get the ability to manage tasks like background checks, exam results, and even inspections all virtually or via the cloud. Not to mention, uplevel the customer and employee experience.

Phase 4: Fully Transform

This phase should represent a full transformation. Processes should be fully digitized and decentralized, your organization is now fully operational in the cloud, customers have 24×7 access to virtual services and the ability to self serve, and you will have a single source of truth for all customer data.

The budget for this phase can range significantly if you add in things like full automation and change management, in which your implementation partner guides your organization through the adoption and adaption of the new system and processes. Expect to budget an additional $250,000 at a minimum to achieve this.

To recap, let’s break down the budget scenario for going “all-in” at each phase:

  • Phase 1 = $200,000 to $295,000
  • Phase 2 = $250,000 to $500,000
  • Phase 3 = $500,000 to $750,000
  • Phase 4 = $750,000+

The bottom line is, don’t immediately write off digital transformation because you are dealing with a limited budget. It is possible to start where you are and expand over time. In many cases, this can actually be an ideal approach from an operational and change management standpoint for many organizations.