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Going Digital in Government

This interview is an excerpt from our recent guide, 30 Government Innovations That Mattered in 2015 which examines 30 government case studies that explore innovation at all levels of government. Innovations that spanned the government job spectrum from human resources to cybersecurity and back again.

In the public sector, mission is everything. The mission drives agencies to deliver better services to citizens at a lower cost—whether it’s supporting the warfighter overseas, a teacher seeking classroom resources or a family figuring out how to pay for a child’s college education. It pushes every level of government to look for new solutions and, more often than not, those are solutions are digital.

In May of 2012, the President unveiled his Digital Government Strategy aimed at creating a digital-first government with websites focused on serving citizens. But calling for a new government strategy and actually implementing one are two very different things. In the past three years, many agencies have worked hard to become true digital organizations providing easy, accessible web experiences and delivering relevant information and services to citizens anywhere, anytime, on any device.

One company that is working to help agencies implement solutions to make improved digital experiences in government a reality is Acquia, a provider of digital platform and software solutions. GovLoop sat down with Dan Katz, Acquia’s Public Sector Technical Director, to learn how their customers are delivering improved digital experiences to citizens.

Katz said the basis of every digital engagement strategy should boil down to the citizen. “Instead of making your users find and figure out answers for themselves, you can instead use simple contextual or behavioral information to tailor the experience and make the entire endeavor easier.”

In a new eBook, The 5 “Musts” of the New Digital Experience Government, Katz shared the five key components every government organization should implement to enable and sustain a successful digital experience.

  1. Digital Cloud. Organizations need cloud platforms and services optimized for enabling secure, reliable digital experiences.
  2. Open Technology. Open source software and open interfaces enable rapid innovation and response to change.
  3. Personalization. Citizen experiences can be optimized through testing, targeting and defining user segments. Organizations can use those segments to deliver the right content at the right time, directly to users.
  4. Omnichannel. Structure content “atomically,” manage it centrally, and publish it across multiple channels like mobile, web and email.
  5. Cultural Support. Successful digital transformation efforts require shared goals and collaboration across IT, executive leadership, external affairs, procurement and project management teams.

Katz noted, “There is no magic here. These are pragmatic, actionable components of a sustainable digital strategy. Starting with one of these is a huge step in the right direction.”

One of the leading agencies that implemented the 5 “Musts” is the state of New York. Two years ago the state’s website was a customer experience nightmare. The site featured rambling menus, redundant links and was unable to quickly or efficiently direct visitors to the state’s many agencies or services. In essence, if you were one of the 3.7 million monthly page views to NY.gov, you were in for a rough experience.

However, all of that changed when Governor Andrew Cuomo dedicated a team of more than 100 people and 10 months to overhaul the site with the customer experience at the heart of the re-design. The team, lead by New York Deputy Secretary for Technology Rachel Haot, reviewed site analytics to determine future demand, opened doors for user testing and sought stakeholder input.

In an interview with Government Technology, Hoat noted, “We discovered there was a clear need for a responsive design, one to accommodate mobile devices; shaving excessive information for quick access to services; engagement outlets through social media and personalization.”

By streamlining and simplifying the website, New York was able to increase visits to the website and change the citizen experience for the better.

“We really identified that the primary goals of the website were first to serve and perform all of those functions, and then secondly, to inform and explain government,” Haot said to Government Technology.

Katz agreed that in order for digital services to truly work in government the citizen has to be the central figure. “You have to make your customers your champions. Harness the people already engaged with you. Ultimately, it doesn’t cost money to talk and listen. Customer service is really about human interaction – and culture.”

In order to meet the demand for an enhanced citizen experience with information and services delivered anywhere, anytime, on any device, government agencies must prioritize projects; utilize the cloud, open technologies, and shared solutions; and work together with industry partners to maximize internal resources. Digital engagement has the power to positively transform the way the public views and interacts with government. And with Katz’ five tips to get the digital engagement ball rolling, your organization can see a huge change.

To learn more watch the “Five Musts” webinar featuring digital success insights from former government leaders.

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