Putting Lipstick On A Rock

Thanks, Gabriela, for the commment on the previous post. I started to answer, and then realized this was turning into a post of its own.

It’s extremely important when implementing egov solutions to ensure the implementation will have a customer focused result. Over the last 21 years, I’ve been involved in many egov solutions, and often partnered with IT folks to ensure a “friendly” outcome. What I mean is that the reason most automation attempts fail, i.e. there is a difficult transition to user acceptance, is because the implementation was driven by the technology, or an internal organizational need. If someone isn’t making sure the user is driving the technology, you could get a state of the art system that no one will use.

I once did a survey of 3-1-1 centers around the country and asked them about lessons learned. Most of them said that they should have involved the end users (both the staff operating the system and the external customers) much more prior to deployment.

When thinking about technology solutions, think of the actual technology as only part of the project. People and processes are the other part. Which brings me to one other point. Stop automating bad processes! Someone once described this to me as “putting lipstick on a rock.” It may be prettier, but it’s still a rock. Please do a process re-engineering to streamline the processes before mapping out the automation. What do you get when you automate a bad process? An expensive bad process.

So yes, in answer to the orignal question, is it possible to satisfy the requirements of great service via an automated process, but it doesn’t happen by accident. Just like everything else – greatness happens by intention and attention to detail.

PS – I know the saying is “Putting lipstick on a pig” but for some reason that has always bothered me. Poor pig.

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Arthur Murphy

Thanks, Wendi –

The basic notion is the essence of User-centered design: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User-centered_design.

There are good references at Usability.gov:

Develop Personas http://www.usability.gov/methods/analyze_current/personas.html

Develop Scenarios of Use: http://www.usability.gov/methods/analyze_current/scenarios.html

And, given my interest in accessibility, we (GovLoopers) might want to develop Personas for people with disabilities – good 508 exercise: http://sites.google.com/site/aeoliansolutions/home/gait_main

(And, thanks for being kind to the pig…)


Allen Sheaprd

Hi. I like rock better. Unused computer systems just sit there – like a rock. A warm rock.

You are totaly right. Just because the system runs on a computer does not make it better or “advanced” Often more is gotten from fixing the process than buying a faster computer to do a bad process. This is why systems get re-written. This is how business grow. This is how wars are won – a new approach.