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Satisfying Constituent Preferences Requires Digital Transformation

By Karen D. Schwartz

Digital constituent engagement has long been a goal at all levels of government, and many agencies have seen success with initiatives ranging from automated street repair requests to applying for unemployment to paying taxes. But everything changed with COVID-19. Forced to stay home, constituents began expecting even more from digital government services.

That mindset seems to be sticking. Despite office reopenings, constituents still want to be able to easily access resources and conduct business with government from any device at any time.

Migrating from in-person services to hybrid or fully digital services delivery in response to constituent demand requires overcoming many challenges, including:

Finding the data.

Applications tend to create data in multiple places, and those data sources aren’t always connected. The data itself also can be formatted differently in different locations, making it difficult to connect it in a way that tells a unified story.

Harnessing the data.

Every phone call, application, request and action the government or its constituents perform generates data. The key is finding a way to efficiently separate valuable data from the rest to make it useful. For example, simply putting all of the data on a dashboard or website won’t do the trick; it is too much for anybody to wade through. Think about crime statistics: Constituents want to know what’s happening in their local communities and how it compares to what’s happening in other areas of the county or state. This requires analyzing reams of data, but the right data — not irrelevant or extraneous data.

Overcoming legacy roadblocks.

Agencies often must work with a combination of legacy systems and more modern systems. This can create infrastructure roadblocks that make providing digital capabilities to constituents difficult or impossible. The only way to fix the problem is by digitally transforming as many processes and systems as possible. Digital transformation is a critical first step that makes digital constituent engagement possible. For instance, without the backend digital infrastructure, constituents would not be able to access government services with a handheld smart device and quickly complete a task.

Solution: Data-Driven Services

Keeping up-to-date with COVID vaccination data in the region, finding answers to passport questions quickly or renewing library books — constituents want to do it all digitally. Making these scenarios and others like them possible comes down to two things: good data and effective analytics.

“Analytics is becoming an extremely important way for agencies to truly understand the level of service they are providing,” said Graham Stroman, a Vice President in Tableau’s government and education division. It’s just as important as a tool to provide transparency back to constituents on how services are being provided and government is performing, he added.

Incorporating analytics into the digital service model requires being able to connect to all relevant data sources — whether on premise or in the cloud — and to prepare them for analysis through cleaning and curating. Analysts can then create and publish visualizations and dashboards. This allows constituents to view and interact with the data and get updates and alerts. Additionally, it enables other government agencies to share and collaborate, creating cross-agency services that benefit constituents.

For example, a state that wanted to improve service used this method to analyze contact center trends. The analysis uncovered a subset of people who called the contact center dozens of times every Monday to request a password reset. This information led to further analysis and a decision to implement a different type of authentication that did not rely on remembering passwords.

Data analytics can be used to improve digital customer service in other ways. For example, a US State DMV has erected kiosks statewide and encourages constituents to use them for transactions that don’t require in-person visits. By analyzing each kiosk’s activity, the state can easily determine which are overused and which are underused, and redistribute the kiosks to improve customer wait times (see case study, below).

This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s report, “Digital Transformation: Best Practices for Effective Constituent Engagement.” Download the full report here.

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