How to Deliver a Digital Experience That Matters to Canadians

Best practices for enhancing government service delivery

Prakash Amirtharaj, Vice President Public Sector, Adobe Systems Canada

On-the-go citizens demand everything to be engaging, real-time and relevant. Touchpoints have exploded: SnapChat, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn – you name it, there’s an audience who requests it. And to top it off – content must be digital, mobile-friendly and secure.

Should you fail to meet (and occasionally exceed) this growing list of expectations, damage to your department’s reputation may follow. And with the explosion of new technology, organizations are battling to win the hearts – and attention spans – of our citizens, the more demanding they become.

What Do Citizens Want from Government? Modernize, But Do It Right.

What are common government experiences today? It’s when a 16-year-old is so excited to start driving for the first time, and he applies for his license at the Ministry of Transportation. Or new parents hold their baby daughter for the first time, and register her name for a birth certificate. Or when parking meters break, and what the experience is like for those people looking to report the issue and ensure they don’t get a ticket. These are the experiences that impact people’s lives and their view of the government.

Canadians want to participate and interact with their government. But traditionally, it’s been seen as too time-consuming and tedious to do so. Form after form, changing regulation after regulation, new process after process, and outdated webpage after webpage – it requires too much effort from the citizen to simply keep up. This has resulted in a negative stigma on government processes as a whole.

In fact, in a recent Adobe study, 78 percent of citizens say it is frustrating to interact with the government in-person or by phone. Ninety percent of people prefer interacting with the government online, and 84 percent support the government allocating more budget toward improving online tools.

This is not a new revelation. To respond to this need, most government departments are working hard to rapidly modernize their websites in 2016. But before rushing to check the ‘modernization box’ yourself, it is important for government employees to fully understand the process of digitization; and to first ensure a secure, long-lasting foundation is built with not just a mobile-first mentality, but a citizen-first one as well.

The First Steps to Digitization: Applying Private Sector Marketing Best Practices to the Public Sector

It starts with understanding the citizens’ needs:

A common mistake in both private and public sectors is to put pen to paper on a digital project before doing the proper legwork. We should never start with “what do I believe is most important for our website” or even look at another government site that looks good to you, and model yours after that.

Instead, invest time to focus on what your specific citizen group wants and needs most from your government (yes, this means we’ll need to peek at the analytics), and then prioritize those services to be readily available and intuitive to find on the website. This takes it back to the most basic needs to properly build a long-lasting digital strategy and foundation – and not waste money correcting ourselves in the future.

For example, citizens should be able to rapidly report poor road conditions or power outages, pay parking tickets, and be equipped with the necessary steps (and forms) to take care of their families’ basic healthcare and education needs. No matter the need – municipal, provincial or federal – citizens want a seamless experience to get vital tasks done.

But what items are most important and when? What do citizens need to take action on more frequently (daily, weekly, biweekly) and what is annual? How can we make this process more convenient for citizens to manage and notify them of important announcements? How does this translate on our website and how frequently updates are needed on the main pages?

Once you know what to prioritize through data, this information can direct where you drive your citizens in the design and layout of your website(s) and what gets placed ‘above the fold’ on a 4” mobile screen. This user-first approach ensures respect to taxpayer dollars as the department does the necessary homework before a penny is spent. Only afterwards can you confidently deliver on those needs by investing in a solution that can easily and regularly be maintained in-house, at an affordable cost.

At the same time, build a creatively-inspired culture:

Just as important, is building a culture of employees who are empowered to create and transform the digital government experience. Efficient in-house operations (i.e. the faster you can create and share messages to your audience) translates directly into a better ongoing experience for citizens year over year.

Today, 86 percent of public sector employees say creative communications and design are indispensable to successful government workplaces. And 89 percent agree that creative communications and design allow them to better serve constituents, to provide better services and tools for citizens, and to better achieve their objectives.

To achieve this and solve the growing inefficiency issue, government employees must be equipped and trained to use the proper tools and secure cloud platforms. If done properly, digital investments are proven to assist with ongoing cost savings through automation and the ability for government employees to track ROI and make changes quickly. It also creates a more engaged citizen and increases satisfaction, which lowers customer service costs.

Adobe proudly champions delivering digital experiences that matter to Canadians. We will be showcasing this at GTEC Summit on June 7 at the Shaw Centre in Ottawa. This article is part of a special Adobe Canada Public Sector blog series leading up to that event. Look out for our next post: The World’s Largest Government Website Redesign and Consolidation Project Today