Leveraging Private Sector Know-How for Government Initiatives

This post is an excerpt  from GovLoop’s recent guide, The Future of Digital Services. In the guide, we explore five trends that are transforming the way government serves citizens in the digital age.

Like any other major transition, there are ways to make government more efficient at developing and deploying digital services. To learn how agencies can advance their initiatives without accruing unnecessary costs, we spoke with Brian Paget, Technical Director Public Sector at Adobe, a content management and digital services provider for government.

“One reason government IT projects fail is because most of the time agencies deliver new digital experiences by writing lots of unmanageable code. Other major brands would never build a new digital experience from scratch. They partner with leading enterprise companies to build experiences on top of proven technology stacks,” explained Paget. “When you deliver these experiences by writing a lot of code, its expensive, it’s scary, it’s difficult to maintain, and there’s a lot of risk.”

Partnering with a provider like Adobe can reduce risks by providing experience, guidance, and enterprise technologies that maximize return on investment in digital services initiatives.

It’s a common complaint that the private sector has outpaced government in the evolution of digital services. However, Paget said this could actually be an advantage for agencies that partner with companies like Adobe, because they already have experience with digital initiatives.

“When people talk about digital marketing solutions, a market Adobe lead’s according to Gartner and Forrester, they’re talking about optimizing cross channel experiences, managing these experiences in a more efficient fashion, and making something that’s easy and simple for people to interact with” Paget said. “That’s really the core of what the digital services initiatives talk about, we just happen to be doing it in government now.”

The first step to mitigating risk is to scrutinize the needs of your agency. Paget explained, “It’s one thing to say we need a better experience in digital services. Everybody agrees with that. And to say that government should have commercial-like experiences, everybody agrees with that as well. The challenge is figuring out how to go about that.”

“The mistake agencies often make is that they don’t look at what the user experience should be. They try to make something that looks pretty, rather than something that works. You need to do both,” said Paget.

Adobe helps agencies strike that balance by aligning agency needs with potential services. “The first thing we look at is an agency’s mission. What do citizens expect from you? How are you trying to empower your employees to meet their mission objectives better?” he said. “We approach it from that perspective, and determine how we can help optimize the service that you’re trying to deliver to meet that mission.”

Once Adobe helps an organization determine the goal of their digital initiative, they map technologies to the project. While many assert that digital initiatives are a matter of cultural change, more than technology, Paget said the two are inextricably connected. “Technologies actually help to create the change. Technology empowers end users to be able to make changes that they couldn’t do in the past.”

But more than changing culture, Adobe’s technologies revise the way agencies create digital services by providing low-cost solutions that can be delivered straight to front-line employees.

Mobile applications are one example of Adobe’s unique delivery. “If you look at a traditional development lifecycle for mobile applications, [technology providers] will build one version for iOS, one version for Android, and one version for Windows,” Paget explained. “[Adobe] provides a platform that allows you to build an application one time and deploy it to those different devices. Right off the bat, it cuts down your development cost for cross-platform apps.”

Once the app is deployed, agency employees can optimize it over time. “It’s not just about delivering an experience, but about measuring that experience. When we build and deliver a mobile application, we embed mobile analytics into that application as well,” said Paget.

Adobe provides the resources to let agency employees truly own its maintenance and evolution. “One of the challenges is once you’ve built an app and you’ve delivered it, you need to keep the content relevant and refreshed,” said Paget. “So we provide technologies that allow you to maintain the content within an app through a simple web-based interface that doesn’t require any programmer or technical intervention.”

And because Adobe solutions are built on an Open Source core and leverage Open Standards for all integration, Adobe ensures you avoid vendor lock-in typically experienced when implementing enterprise software stacks.

This isn’t a novel idea, but it’s rarely seen in government solutions. “These are patterns that commercial [companies] have used for years,” said Paget. “What we’ve done is optimized a known solution that allows the government to execute [digital initiatives] without having to invest millions of dollars to deliver this capability.”

That’s the core of Adobe’s proposition, according to Paget. “We understand the challenges that are unique to the government sector, and we’ve extended our platform of commercial based [solutions] to meet the needs of the federal, state, and local governments.”

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