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Why Do So Few Feds Champion User Experience?

By Nextgov Staff // November 21, 2014

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User experience may be gaining traction in the federal government, but a new survey reveals many still don't know exactly what it is and are reluctant to dedicate resources to it.

Commonly known by its shorthand UX, user experience refers to the quality of a user's interaction with and perceptions about a particular system. 

Jonathan Rubin, ‎user experience program manager at the General Services Administration, and Jean Fox, research psychologist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, set out "to learn about how we can best improve the effectiveness, ease-of-use and value of federal digital systems by connecting their teams to their customers," according to a blog post Rubin wrote Nov. 21.

In total, responses were culled from 101 respondents from 35 agencies. With such a small sample size, “it’s not a scientific survey, but still very telling,” Rubin wrote. 

Overall, the governmentwide user experience survey had some bright spots. Nearly 40 percent of respondents said their UX resources had increased since 2013, and more than half said their resources stayed the same. Only 11 percent reported seeing a dip in the number of those doing UX at their agency.  

Additionally, UX is more widespread now than last ...

Federal Customer Experience 'Downright Bleak'

By Camille Tuutti // November 11, 2014

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If the federal government had a customer complaint box, it would probably be overflowing by now.

The overall customer experience for half a dozen key federal services was rated “very poor,” according to a new report from Forrester.

“Compared with dozens of auto, banking, retail and retail companies we also ranked," federal customer experience "looks downright bleak,” the Nov. 7 report concluded.

Forrester’s annual "CX Index" measures government agencies -- and more than 15 other sectors -- across three components that make up great customer experience: effectiveness, ease and emotion.

The six federal agencies and programs rated earned an average of “very poor,” with HealthCare.gov scoring the lowest.

So why the dismal scores? In short: Government customers don’t feel appreciated.

Of the 1,300 U.S. adults who interacted with a government agency online in the past 12 months:

  • Less than half said these agencies made them proud of the U.S. The Internal Revenue Service scored the lowest, with only about one-fifth of its customers saying their interactions with the agency made them proud of the nation.
  • Less than half said government customer experiences make them feel like important citizens. (VA scored the highest, while the IRS ranked ...

Data-Driven Disaster Management

By Robert A. Runge and Isabel Runge // October 29, 2014

 A medical worker sprays people being discharged from the Island Clinic Ebola treatment center in Monrovia, Liberia.
A medical worker sprays people being discharged from the Island Clinic Ebola treatment center in Monrovia, Liberia. // Jerome Delay/AP File Photo

The current outbreak – and spread – of Ebola has, once again, shown the world just how vulnerable it is to calamity and catastrophe.  

Unfolding events over the past few years have made this abundantly clear.

In 2008, more than 3,596 individual fires ravaged California, threatening homes, natural ecosystems and lives.

In April 2011, nations were left reeling after the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and accompanying tsunami in Japan disrupted the Fukushima nuclear plant.

And in 2012, superstorm Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, devastating homes in 24 different states.

There have been 164 major disasters worldwide in the two years since Sandy, according to Relief Web. Hurricanes, flooding, fires and disease outbreaks are just a few examples of the types of catastrophe that make Relief Web’s list.

Many of these disasters occurred in countries with unstable infrastructures, making them extremely vulnerable to cataclysmic events. But implementing fully developed recovery plans on both governmental and individual citizen levels can help these countries recuperate quickly and efficiently.

And the sharing of data and information among government organizations, community leaders, rescue personnel and citizens is essential for the success of these plans.

We can see this in the current Ebola ...

GSA’s Green Proving Grounds Wants Government to be on the Greening Edge

By Frank Konkel // October 23, 2014

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The idea to adopt and promote green technologies using federal buildings and facilities as guinea pigs is not a new concept.

But the Obama administration has ramped up the practice significantly as part of a broader push to achieve environmental efficiencies across the federal government’s vast real-estate portfolio.

Recently, the General Services Administration’s Green Proving Grounds emerged as a key element in meeting the president’s Climate Action Plan and his 2009 executive order calling for federal leadership in environmental energy and sustainability.

The Green Proving Grounds leverages GSA’s real-estate portfolio to evaluate the potential success of emerging green technologies in energy management, lighting, heating and cooling, and on-site energy generation.  

The proving grounds recently released a request for information, running through Nov. 7, for promising technologies that could “inform decision-making within GSA, other federal agencies and the real estate agency in deploying the technologies studied.”

In other words, the next smart light bulb or building design could wind up in the Green Proving Grounds program before its eventual proliferation across government and the private sector.

It’s a fascinating possibility for a government that spends billions of dollars each year just to keep the lights at ...

Can the U.S. Government Get Its DATA Act Together?

By Jennifer Belissent // October 21, 2014

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Jennifer Belissent is a principal analyst at Forrester Research, where she works with government CIOs.

The full promise of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act Act -- DATA Act for short -- won’t be realized anytime soon.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Many agencies are in no position to comply just yet. According to a recent US Government Accountability Office report on data transparency, agencies' track records for data quality and publication leave much to be desired.

For example, agencies failed to report nearly $620 billion in grants, loans or other assistance awards, and data reported was often inconsistent and incomplete. As a result, the GAO recommended "a more comprehensive oversight process" and "more specific guidance" on validating data.

Passage of the DATA Act came at the right time.

The law aims to improve public access to federal spending information, in part, through putting in place standardized governmentwide financial reporting standards. Ultimately, the law requires agencies to post all spending information online in searchable and downloadable formats.

But federal agency chief information officers still have a ways to go to address three areas before the law fully kicks into gear.  

1. Addressing data maturity and skills gaps

Government ...