How Government Transforms Service Using Experiences that are Efficient, Engaged, and Secure
by Jacob Rosen
posted on 03-19-2015
By Brian Paget, Technical Director for Content and Analytics, Adobe
Go inside any digital agency today and there’s a shift taking place in the mindset of government leaders. Their work isn’t just about delivering a public service. Increasingly, government leaders are focused on giving citizens a more personalized and customer-focused experience.
“You’re basically taking an approach to government that closely resembles the digital experiences you would expect from a private company,” says Brian Paget, technical director for content and analytics at Adobe. “Just like how you would order up goods and services online, government’s digital experience can meet, and even anticipate, the needs of citizens,” he says.
Today’s government, Paget says, relies on digital tools and strategies that are flexible enough to adapt with rapidly evolving technology. By taking a customer service focus to the work, agencies are building customized services, emphasizing efficiency, engagement and security, he says.
A digital approach to government is how the U.S. Department of Labor was able to speed up workers’ compensation and care requests, reducing the time it takes to file a time loss claim by about 18 percent. It’s also how the U.S. Army was able to recruit and grow a qualified military service body through the site GoArmy.com. And, it’s how the U.S. Census delivers data and content to millions of Americans each year.
A digital-customer facing experience is now built-in to many of the outward-facing services of government, Paget says, and the idea of putting the customer first can really help agencies stand out in the digital sphere.
To go further inside the digital agency, Paget breaks down his strategy of efficiency, engagement and security — key components to any user experience.
Q: What are the first thing agencies look to when they talk about improving their digital experience for customers?
A: It’s efficiency. It’s one of the primary concerns, but I don’t know if it’s the top concern for every agency. I think that if you look at what most people have been focused on, they’ve been focused on providing the best digital experience. It’s a conversation about experience, which is a good first step. But a lot of the default answers have been: ‘Let’s build something really interactive and that looks nice.’ That’s great to say, but when you build a project, it almost immediately becomes a legacy project. Instead, government should be building to scale and thinking about the efficiencies they can gain by implementing experiences in the same way that commercial sector has in the last five years. Efficiencies are a huge part, but I don’t think everyone is focused on it, as they should be.
Q: Why should government think about delivering engaging customer experiences too?
A: I think the mindset of looking at things from a customer engagement perspective keeps your focus on service, which is what almost every government agency is doing.
If you look at the missions of all government agencies, at some point or another it comes back to serving the citizen. And, when you think of it within the customer engagement context, you think about the services you can offer. You think about optimizing that experience. You think about trying to do a better job.
That’s why you see customer engagement as being one of the key themes. Agencies, like GSA, have customer experience metrics and customer experience officers. They’re trying to change the mindset from looking at citizens more abstractly, to conceptualizing citizens as customers who should be engaged.
Q: When you sit down and talk to an agency, is security the first thing on their mind?
A: Security is incredibly important. It’s easy to think of government as being always behind the times. Yes, it’s behind the times, but that’s because government needs to be. In government, you can’t be the early adopter or the first one out of the gate.
Security is a big thing that takes time to build on top of enterprise platforms. You have to be concerned about security and doing it right too. Looking at enterprise applications and technologies that are being implemented at scale, you have to take those platforms and extend the security. You’re ensuring deployment in a sensitive environment, like defense and civilian agencies. Then, you have to look for opportunities to extend that security where content and assets are being shared across agencies and with the public.
So security concerns definitely slows down the implementation of digital services, because they take time to figure out, but security takes precedent overall. Security is the basis for everything, but then the actual content and delivery of the experience matters too, so really accessibility is a balancing act.
Q: Can you talk about engaging and efficient experiences from the government perspective?
A: Engaging and efficient experiences are something that we see almost every day. Most people think about them as beautiful experiences that are simple to interact with. It’s not just about making something look nice. It’s also about making those things simple to use. For government, you need an easy, mobilized experience for citizens. When people access the Internet today, their primary method for use might only be mobile. So it can’t just be beautiful design, the digital experience has to matter too. We empower government to dream-up interfaces that are easy-to-use and creative. We think of the service as having a nice clean interface, but it also has to drive home what the user needs too. And you can think of it as one big loop from creation to delivery. We’re essentially optimizing the experience by delivering a set of services that can be tracked continuously.
It’s great to deliver these awesome experiences, but the other part of it is sustaining the experience. That requires measuring and understanding what happened. To understand citizen services, you also have to be measuring and continuously improving on the digital experience. If you have a site, you have to update the content and measure how people will interact with it. Those who come to your site are looking for specific things, and you have to optimize your site for that experience.
Q: What about the future? Where do you see digital government going?
A: You have to prepare for the unknown. The reality of what’s happening is that you can’t anticipate where things are going next.
Some have already figured this out. Sites like GoArmy.com provide a really great experience because they need to recruit top soldiers. Recruitment means getting people on the device that they’re coming in on and providing them with a consumer-like experience. GoArmy.com was one of the earliest adopters because they needed it.
The second wave of change though has been the citizen facing agencies that want to do a better job of delivering data to people. Places like Census.gov do a really great job at this. They deliver information in a much more friendly way and based off the location that you’re coming in from. It starts with classical digital marketing and moves to government services like Census. It really becomes about serving the citizens.
Content systems must be optimized for change because really, we just don’t know what’s next. Mobile was a huge shift in the last five years. And, looking forward to the next five years, it’s about having a digital service and system that’s adaptable and sustainable over time.