Brian Paget is technical director at Adobe.
Consumers are accustomed to businesses providing them with the option to find information and offer feedback on any device at any time—and they expect no less from federal agencies. Few people relish the idea of visiting a government office in person or placing a telephone call that requires them to “press 1 for this, press 2 for that.”
As a recent survey commissioned by Adobe illustrates, many citizens would rather have a root canal or sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic than wait in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles or place a call to the Internal Revenue Service.
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However, that same survey found that online interactions with government agencies have increased over the past few years as people try to save time and minimize frustration while still getting the information they need. For that to happen, sites must be intuitive, engaging, optimized and citizen-centric.
As the federal government continues its digital transformation efforts, agencies must take care to develop online presences that allow them to service their customers—U.S. citizens—in a more streamlined, efficient and citizen-friendly way. Let’s dive into six strategies that can help agencies achieve these goals and deliver online experiences that resonate with citizens.
1. Think like a citizen.
To transform the constituent experience, agencies need to begin thinking like citizens. They need to take a look at the services citizens use to complete transactions (such as renewing a driver’s license or paying taxes) and consider those services from a citizen’s perspective.
This involves asking a series of questions. What are they looking for? How are they looking for it? How would they like that information delivered? What are some of their pain points? Asking these questions is the starting point for an agency’s transformation into a citizen-centric organization.
2. Transform citizen experiences.
Agencies should then focus on providing citizens with consistent and personal cross-channel experiences that deliver information tailored to their unique needs. For example, a person visiting a website should be able to easily find relevant information customized by user type (for instance, a business owner might need different information than an average citizen). They should be able to receive this same information via multiple channels—through a website, online chat, phone call or in person. The citizen saves time and gets what they need, and the government strengthens ties with that citizen.
3. Get creative.
Many federal developers have creative tendencies that are held back by legacy IT technologies and policies, lengthy approval processes, and an emphasis on efficiency over creativity. But if government agencies want to truly connect with citizens, they need to allow their teams to develop creative and compelling content that makes interaction enjoyable.
If these teams are not granted the freedom to create, agencies will lose the chance to connect with people—and may also lose their developers to other, more creative industries.
4. Optimize for mobile.
To meet the demands of our increasingly mobile society, federal agencies must make mobile a cornerstone of their digital transformation efforts. They must create mobile-friendly websites that provide users with a clean and simple—yet also powerful and complete—smartphone experience. Again, approach things from citizens' perspective and deliver content in the format that works best for them.
5. Increase efficiencies for everyone.
There are a number of transformative initiatives agencies can undertake to improve their own operations while enhancing the citizen experience. Migrating to cloud-based solutions can help streamline processes and establish a platform for continuous innovation while minimizing costs and use of IT resources. Use of e-signatures can eliminate or reduce the need for manual or paper-based tasks and increase the speed of transactions. Digitizing forms and documents can make it easier for citizens to find and download the documents they need and help agencies save on administrative costs.
6. Apply three layers of security.
A three-layered approach to security that includes content management, digital rights management and continuous monitoring is essential to supporting agencies’ digital transformation efforts. The first layer, content management, involves incorporating strong user authentication and authorization, classification of documents by sensitivity level, and access to controls preventing unauthorized user access.
The second layer, DRM, ensures the security of sharable documents by including encryption that restricts access to those documents regardless of where they are located and allows managers to track them as they are shared across the agency. The third and ongoing layer, continuous monitoring, provides 24/7 security by monitoring and alerting managers to suspicious activity.
While government still has a lot of work to do in the area of citizen experience, agencies have made great strides here over the past couple of years. They’ve invested in the tools necessary to become more agile and efficient. Now, they must keep continue to use their technology and talent to put citizens first and become more aligned with consumer expectations.