Driving Citizen-Centric Engagement

A citizen-centric government experience is going to be the new normal in today’s digital world.

By Mark Fisk. Mark is a Partner within IBM’s Global Business Services division.

I had the privilege of recently attending the Citizen’s Engagement Summit hosted in Washington, DC to learn more about the biggest, toughest challenges Government faces today around providing an optimized Citizen-Centric experience.  Speakers stressed how the citizen needs to be front and center throughout the entire product lifecycle as citizens are the real “product owners” of the digital experience they are seeking.The conference was a great indicator that agencies are working on establishing their digital services and moving to a more agile approach in designing, implementing, and operating these services moving forward. That is good news for the Citizen!

There were three main ideas I wanted to share from the conference:

1.  The private sector, such as retail, has already developed best practices to engage citizens – termed consumer engagement points. With government, one could define a set of specific Citizen Experience Points (CEPs) where the citizen’s or an advocate’s inputs would be sought for the co-creation process. Leveraging these CEPs would be a great start to bring the dialog together for the various stakeholders in the process – whether it is agency mission, agency IT, citizen, or other organizations.

2.  Panelists discussed the “why now” factors. It is clear that the agencies are readying themselves to move quickly.  Major factors include:

  • The Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) release of new draft policy directives and the significant funding targets around systems modernization on legacy systems (often referred to as Systems of Record).  Modernized systems of record will allow new capacity for citizen-facing capabilities (often referred to as Systems of Engagement).  Today, these legacy systems often limit the capability to securely scale and bring enterprise services to the citizen.
  • New technologies available through cognitive and analytics are gaining in maturity – making them ideal candidates to be considered as viable solutions within the public sector.
  • New initiatives, such as the Federal Front Door program, which are being envisioned to address customer service, customer satisfaction, and to improve public-government interactions.

3.  Finally, the conference leaders focused on the biggest benefit of working on the challenges that citizens face  – anyone can bring ideas to the table from our personal interactions with government. Ask yourself on your next interaction with Government – how could I have had a superior customer experience?

As a personal example, when recently applying for my son’s Financial Student Aid through the FAFSA – I could see many ways to assist and streamline the process. But more importantly – although I successfully navigated the process (with much personal and local school investment in workshops and prep sessions), it was a very expensive (in terms of time and information provided) transaction, which I prepared for, executed, and now have completed.

Instead, could that experience have been a step in a larger set of Citizen Experience Points (CEPs)?  For example, could I have been presented with information on additional local, state, or higher education scholarships or financial aid packages? Could information from my commercial Common App be used in combination with my FAFSA information to pre-populate these applications? Could I have been provided a helper application to work through calculating my assets or even import this information from Quicken?

Government can move forward with positive, citizen-focused engagement in developing policies and applications for this and similar services that touch millions of Americans.  The Administration’s recent announcement of a Core Federal Services Council to focus on improving performance in key citizen-facing programs provides a great opportunity to help agencies serve their constituents.  The OMB Memorandum announcing this Council states, “The Council will improve the customer experience by using public and private sector management best practices, such as conducting self-assessments and journey mapping, collecting transactional feedback data, and sharing such data with frontline and other staff.”

How can you help design a superior citizen-centric experience? Comment on ideas you may have for creating a superior citizen experience.

These ideas continue to build on the Center’s effort to help government address major challenges and opportunities for government over the next several years.

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