I have talked before on a few occasions about how I think Government 2.0 will be a defining theme in our business over the next few years. It’s an inevitable change because the 2nd wave of the Web (notably social media, true collaboration, societal acceptance of user generated content, etc.) has taken hold. The Web is no longer new… it’s discoveries no longer novel… and now it is time to take advantage of the technologies to earn greater efficiency for the public at large.
If you are a government official with the authority and budget to get going on the Web, where do you get started? Everyone and their grandmother are social media/Web 2.0 experts, yet you need to make a good decision.
I’ll leave it up to the reader to determine if we’re expert or not, but I thought I’d nonetheless share a few random thoughts and tips about finding the right person or company to help with your needs. In no particular order:
1) Today, in February 2009, there are few if any Government 2.0 experts. There simply haven’t been enough contracts available for anyone to legitimately think of themselves as expert. And no, running one tactic of Barack Obama’s viral marketing campaign doesn’t make someone an expert either. Sorry. Which leads me to my second point…
2) Most successes with Web 2.0 and social media have been done in the private sector. This is what you want. Find someone who has solved a problem for a major company or three. Government, complicated as it is, can be learned. You will have a hard time (especially in 2009) finding companies or people with Government 2.0 experience. If you make that a requirement, you are not likely to find the most talented person or company you can.
3) Folks who didn’t do anything with the social Web before 2000 aren’t forward thinking enough for you. Same goes for LinkedIn users after 2003 and Facebook users after 2005. Government agencies who shell out good taxpayer money should have the benefit of people who can see long term trends and dive right in.
4) Don’t get a strategist. Get someone who can both think through your problems efficiently and implement strategy.
5) Training is important. Once setup, a lot of Web 2.0 projects can run on autopilot if someone on staff wants to monitor success and failure. Hold consultants to a high standard that includes training and an exit plan. You don’t want to pay a consultant ad infinitum, and you shouldn’t if you’ve hired the right person or company.
6) Accept the possibility of a few failures along the way. Flexibility is key to ultimately getting the efficiencies, cost savings, and customer satisfaction improvements you seek. Don’t freak out if the going is rough early.
7) You will probably get what you pay for. So beware of the overeager who you aren’t paying very well.