This interview is an excerpt from GovLoops recent guide, The Workforce Behind State and Local Government. Download the full guide here.
Since the beginnings of the digital era, the private sector has consistently provided innovative citizen experiences. As the private sector continues to advance how it engages with the public, consumers have come to expect the same engagement from government platforms. Many public sector agencies are working to update their internal processes, turning to technology to improve their citizen-facing platforms and re-defining the citizen experience.
To gain insight into how government can improve internal processes and how technology plays a critical role, GovLoop spoke with Michael Ashford, Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships at Granicus, a cloud-based platform for government.
One of the biggest challenges agencies face when trying to use technology to improve their processes is actually implementing the right technology. Ashford noted there is a lot of “feel good technology” in government these days. He explained, “certain technologies have a lot of buzz around them but at the end of the day, the outcome of implementing that technology may make processes more cumbersome.” In order to counter this, organizations must first develop an understanding of what improvements actually need to be made and what technology is best to make them.
Implementing the right technology can help improve the citizen experience, from a purely transactional point. According to Ashford, “citizen engagement is inviting citizens into better interactions with the government in a transactional fashion.” Often times, citizen experiences with state and local government organizations are hindered by what is perceived to be ‘red tape’ and the public gets a distorted view of the services government provides.” To rectify this misperception, agencies need more streamlined processes and technologies that help employees connect with citizens and do their job more effectively.
But first, agencies must be mindful of what citizens actually need and want from the government, and how current systems don’t meet this need. “The goal is not to make citizens understand all of the internal changes made in government, they don’t need to know that. It is more important that the technology you implement creates a seamless process for the citizen,” Ashford emphasized.
In order to ensure these seamless processes, government must take a new approach to innovation and technology implementation. Too often, when implementing new technologies, government organizations layer the technology over an existing process, essentially adding to the complexity rather than creating efficiencies. This runs the risk of technology actually hindering government employees’ productivity.
Instead, organizations should focus on a more comprehensive method. A holistic approach to technology implementation and citizen engagement makes government employees’ job easier while simultaneously fostering an enhanced user experience. Ashford emphasized that this approach involves a complete understanding of what the current processes are, where the organization is having issues, and what technology is out there to improve these pain points. However, innovators must be realistic about the changes they are trying to make and be strategic with the steps they take to get there.
Granicus offers solutions to make the process surrounding the carryout of public meetings easier for government. “Our solutions are geared towards making the public meeting process as efficient, streamlined, and transparent as possible so at the end of the day, better decisions can be made for the community,” explained Ashford. Applying technology to the internal processes of a public meeting allows pre-decision processes to be more efficient, allowing citizen transactions with government to be less cumbersome.
Ashford explained that Granicus’ goal is ultimately to make it easier for citizens to connect with government data and information. For example, digitization of legislative history logs and public meetings has led to fewer Freedom of Information requests going into clerks’ offices. This allows citizens to easily access the information they need online and eliminates the need for a government employee to shovel through archives to get citizens the requested information.
Streamlining and digitizing processes is a critical next step for many state and local government organizations. As Ashford explained, “there is an expectation that the government is beholden to the citizens requesting services from them.” In order to meet this expectation, organizations must use the right technology and, in many cases, the turn to outside services that can help them redefine the citizen experience.
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