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Dienstag, 4.10.2022
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Improving user experience for constituents seeking government services is top of mind for public-sector leaders.

Officials participating in the Center for Digital Government's (CDG) premier local government surveys — Digital Cities and Digital Counties — ranked improving customer engagement and experience as their second-highest priority for 2021, trailing only cybersecurity. And state government officials polled in CDG's most recent Digital States survey said simplifying and improving access to constituent services was the top goal for executive leaders.

A panel of public- and private-sector experts explored how state and local agencies are rethinking service delivery and transforming the constituent experience during a live Government Technology webcast. The webcast offered insights on streamlining digital interactions, reducing complexity and improving customer journeys.

Here are some primary takeaways:

1. Explore Innovative Ideas

It's useful to see how high-performing jurisdictions are transforming the constituent experience. Mesa, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix, is a worthy place to start. Mesa took the top prize for cities in CDG's 2021 Government Experience Awards [https://www.govtech.com/dc/government-experience-awards-2021-new-ways-to-reach-out] in large part because of its fast and shrewd response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mesa took just three weeks to automate the application process for residents to receive critical CARES Act funding, speeding up distribution of badly needed financial assistance. The city also:

  • Used surveys, online polling, social media and a mobile app to collect feedback and gather data on resident sentiments.

  • Coordinated with transit officials to help solve transportation challenges.

  • Promoted efforts to expand broadband access and narrow the city's digital divide.

"As government agencies, we need to be able to innovate and pivot quickly, like we did with COVID-19, and be able to respond to the needs of our residents," Mesa CIO Travis Cutright said during the webcast.

Mesa has also launched a $70 million smart-meter initiative for gas, water and electricity usage. Data from smart meters will help the city identify water leaks and reduce energy expenses, both of which benefit residents.

2. Rethink Service Delivery

Seamless service delivery should be the prime objective of agencies aiming to transform government experience. Getting there requires a new approach to designing and delivering public-facing services.

Constituents often struggle through a maze of processes, policies and technologies when dealing with government services. Residents applying for business licenses, for example, may need to interact with multiple city or county departments. Transformative agencies give users a straightforward route to their objectives.

"The trend we're seeing is a lot more focus on the entire resident journey — not just the experience with one department or one agency," said Amber D'Ottavio, vice president of product management at Accela, which provides cloud-based software for government services.

One way to do this is by implementing tools that automatically route constituent applications and data to the proper departments. This approach can streamline approval processes and reduce constituent questions about what to do or where to go next.

A real-world example comes from Oregon, where the state has centralized and standardized online permitting processes.

"Now, no matter what city or county or state website you go to, it's the same process," D'Ottavio said during the webcast. "They also removed the complexity of understanding where you need to go to get the permit. You go to the website, type in your address, and it gives you the list of services available at that address. You select the services you want, and the website routes everything to the right departments."

Transparency is important, too, D'Ottavio added. Consider giving constituents upfront estimates of how long the approval process will take and how much money they'll have to spend.

In Mesa, Cutright and his team strive for a user journey that's similar on all city websites and applications.

"A consistent look and feel across all the channels that we employ is first and foremost," Cutright said. "That requires some partnership with our Public Information Office and really understanding from our customers that services they need, and how they'd like to see it delivered."

Improving experience also requires well-thought-out workflows. "As we go digital, we need to make sure that we're responding to those digital interactions quickly and efficiently," Cutright said. "The only way we do that is to build good workflows and notifications into the back-end systems." In addition, agencies must build feedback mechanisms that help them continually understand and enhance user experience. After all, agency IT leaders are accountable to voters, elected officials and managers.

"We've got to be prepared for whatever comes our way," Cutright said. "From an internal perspective, we're always upgrading our systems and making sure we're postured to respond to most requests."

3. Map Out Your Future

Modernizing the government experience requires thorough planning and prudent strategy.

"The best starting point is strategic direction and vision from the mayor and city council, because they're the eyes and ears to the community and to the residents," Cutright said. Sound strategy also must include an understanding of what works and what's broken.

"Talk to the people that you do business with the most and find out what they like, and listen to people who don't do business with you to unmask their objections," D'Ottavio said. "Use these discussions to zero in on the most pressing modernization challenges." Don't neglect the basics. For instance, websites should use search engine optimization to ensure users find what they're looking for. Agencies must also be prepared to support continual iteration and improvement of public-facing services.

"The expectations of the public are going to continue to evolve. Technology's going to continue to evolve," D'Ottavio said.

Agencies must devote money and staff to keep modernizing over the long haul — and they need flexible technologies that adapt to changing needs. A modern government experience also generates streams of data to improve decision-making and root out inefficiencies.

"You're going to find cost savings," D'Ottavio said. Savvy IT leaders use the savings to justify investments in continuous modernization.

CULTURE IS CRITICAL

Change, while welcome, is not easy.

"A lot of these things that we're talking about require a complete culture and mindset shift," D'Ottavio said.

To drive change, organizations must identify internal champions: stakeholders who believe in digital transformation and will support these initiatives. D'Ottavio also suggested that jurisdictions create governance committees responsible for planning and implementing new technologies and processes. As jurisdictions push transformation forward, these tactics will help public-sector leaders reimagine how governments engage constituents and deliver vital services.

Accela provides a unified suite of cloud solutions trusted by governments across the globe to accelerate their digital transformation, deliver vital services and build stronger communities. More than 275 million citizens globally benefit from Accela's government software solutions, which offer both the speed and agility of purpose-built solutions, and the power of a platform that delivers a consistent user interface, shared data across departments, endless configurations and world-class security. For more information, visit www.accela.com.

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Quelle/Source: Government Technology, 27.06.2022

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