Unlike other sectors, the U.S. federal, state and local government entities are here to serve the American people. There is no competition and no profit involved — we have one place to go for what we need from our government, and they are required to serve us the information we seek. As constituents, we are entitled to information and, since there are rules and regulations we need to follow, we do our best to fulfill our obligations. As businesses, we could be filing plans or looking for approved variances or even zoning rules.
We expect the government to provide what we need and to be equally committed to making our lives easier, all while staying current with technology. But this has not happened on its own and has required legislation to get the government going in the right direction — toward the digital environment we have already graduated to in our own personal lives.
Depending on leadership within the legislative and executive bodies and the innovators that sit within the federal, state and local agencies, the government has had somewhat of a push/pull relationship with technology-savvy staff trying to bring the government into the 21st century. These efforts have received pushback due to costs, lack of guidance and the overwhelming amount of work that needs to be done for digital transformation, infrastructure modernization and application integration.
Now, the government is on the line to make things happen and to get our “customer” experience as constituents in line with the digital revolution.
It’s all about the customer experience (CX)
The main trend in government improvement is “better experiences for the people.” Fulfilling the goal of making the CX timely and user-friendly is driving the need for change with external service and with internal operations. But they cannot be successful without the right tools and without making significant technological changes for greater efficiency.
Thus, the byproduct of working to do more for the public — with speed, with transparency, with efficiency and without operational hardships — is radically changing how the government works.
With the focus to streamline processes, provide mobile accessibility and build a fast and friendly experience, we have seen some headway through legislation. The burden of paper processes and the inability to easily find and provide information has made the staff of governing bodies and government agencies frustrated as they see the private sector soar past them with innovative technology, and leaving them wondering when the digitized life they enjoy at home will make its way into the office.
2010 – Digital government
In 2010, the federal government embarked on a Digital Government Strategy with three main objectives under a road map with four parts: Information Centric, Shared Platform, Customer-Centric and Security & Privacy. Two-thirds of these objectives focused on the customer while the third spoke to the physical transformation of government operations:
• Objective 1 – For the people: Provide high-quality digital government information and services anywhere, anytime on any device.
• Objective 2 – For the economy: Spur innovation across the nation: Unlock the power of government data and the CX.
• Objective 3 – For operations: Adjust to this new digital world, break free from inefficient costly practices and build a sound governance structure for digital services and mobile accessibility.
This initiative spurred legislation that made ideas into solid policy:
• Executive Order 13571 – Streamlining Service Delivery & Improving Customer Service
• Executive Order 13576 – Delivering the Efficient, Effective and Accountable Government
• President’s Memorandum – Transparency and Open Government
• OMB Memorandum M—10-06 – Open Government Directive
• National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC)
• IT Reform – The 25-Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal Information Technology Management
It has been eight years since the big push on making a better CX through digital transformation. Progress seems to be slow because the government is big and there are many agencies, but this information has trickled down to state and local governments and spurred activity.
How are they doing?
According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, there was a definite improvement in citizen satisfaction with federal government services right after the 2010 initiative, but the federal government then lost considerable ground until 2016 where there was a rebound in reported satisfaction. However, satisfaction levels decreased again after 2017, with a 1.1 percent drop from 2017 to 2018. While you might think the partial government shutdown affected the 2018 metric, it did not; the data was collected prior to the shutdown, and it won’t be until 2019 before the shutdown is reflected in the data.
So, why isn’t this a hockey-stick-shaped trajectory from 2010? Isn’t it a national imperative to get on track with the private sector, updating the old infrastructure and adopting digital technology for faster and safer business operations?
First, it is important to recognize that the federal rollup is a composite of many agencies, and some are doing better than others with their CX.
Second, the government is big, and all this change will take time and cost money.
2016 – modernizing government
The Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act, signed into law December 12, 2017, was designed to provide financial resources and technical expertise to agencies so they could invest in modern technology solutions to improve service delivery to the public, secure sensitive systems and data and — in the end — save taxpayer money because of realized efficiencies.
The act established:
• A centralized Technology Modernization Fund and Technology Modernization Board.
• Authorization for all 23 CFO Act agencies to establish IT Working Capital Funds.
It took six years for the government to recognize that it would take money to transform and modernize its technology, and they offered up funding along with a process to get the funding for IT needs. This was not without some agency concerns, as the money must be paid back, but this act finally opened the door for monetary support to fuel the transformation. As of December 2018, six projects had been funded for $68.7 million, of which $6 million has been spent.
At the time of the act, several act proponents foresaw that for a significant impact on CX, the priority should be replacing infrastructure and applications that pose high cybersecurity risks. And that is indeed what we see. Only two projects fit the digital government initiative with a new portal and making a current paper process a digital process while the others are all for the purpose of modernization.
As we equate the government’s activity to the private sector, it is clear that, although it has been so far behind, the government is moving in the right direction. The majority of these initial steps are IT-related since agencies need to put in place a structure that is agile enough to enable content management systems, e-forms, e-signatures, digitized records, and digital processes for productivity gains. But, it’s a start. The government is big and it takes time to make things happen.
Fixing CX: Two initiatives in play — modernization and digitizing
As citizens clamor for more up-to-date technology, we can see the road map is in place for the government. Without the updated infrastructure, however, this 21st century transformation is more challenging. According to Gartner, the government CIO needs to “become a change agent” in their organization and “illuminate opportunities for digital transformation, innovation and organizational change.”
Are they challenged because there is so much to do? Or are they challenged because they don’t have a road map? As we see in the private sector, there is a smart order of things and understanding the flow, the journey and the road map is an operational imperative. If they need help, they also need to be proactive in finding it.
Is local government lagging?
At the state and local level, the concern has been the same — what can be done to improve the CX? What happens when we visit our town hall for information? Does the service meet our level of expectation and satisfaction? For the local government, the American Customer Satisfaction Index is also in decline. In 2018, it dropped 4.6 percent from the previous year to 68.0 — a two-year decline from 2016’s index of 72.5.
While Federal mandates like FOIA requests also hit state and local governments, each state is in control of their operations and can move more quickly to transform. There are state agencies and local government infrastructure to consider, but the cost of funding a transformation continues to be a big factor.
Like the private sector, to bring about change the state change agents are the governor and the respective legislatures. They can mimic what is happening at the federal level, but for a state to be successful there has to be a buy-in at the top, a clear road map and CIOs who can prioritize needs and navigate commercial solutions to fit the strategy that they have put in place. Is it always a top-down process? No, not always. There are savvy IT professionals within the state government making headway with changes ranging from e-signatures to revamped websites, driving simplification and friendlier processes to improve the CX.
Fortunately, the scale of operations at state and local levels is much smaller than at the federal level. With support from the top, states can follow best practices from the private sector, using a phased approach and engaging experienced consultants to help them navigate the journey. It is the smart state that looks to federal government legislation to see how they need to make changes at the state level to be in sync with the overall transformational plan for the U.S.
State and local governments can start with small changes — like e-forms and e-signatures — for some quick wins, but the visionary leaders that take a step back can see how one change can make a big impact on the operation, and that requires an all-encompassing plan. Take a moment to consider the following questions:
• Can you utilize e-signatures without e-forms or digital documents?
• Can you implement e-forms if your constituent website/portal is not equipped to send and accept the forms?
• Can you send and receive digital documents if your agency is paper-based?
• Can you take an e-form FOIA request and do a keyword search if you only have physical paper files?
Remember, each change impacts another operation — but in a positive way. With the need to continually make changes, the government will get closer to the private sector for an improved CX.
2018 – Idea
Signed into law December 20, 2018, the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA) is just the kind of federal legislation that states and local governments should act on, too. The act provides a timeline with specific milestones for federal agencies to comply with changes to their operations for digital forms, e-signatures and citizen-friendly websites — all with an eye on improving the CX with the federal government. For example, by January 2021, the federal government must provide a digital option for all of its forms — there are over 23,000 unique forms used in the federal government.
This act will expand the original objective from the 2010 legislation to be more citizen-centric with policies. And, for the early adopters, there are great gains to be made in productivity, compliance and a positive CX.
State and local governments, which are more agile than the federal government, have a model to follow for a digital government, modernization in IT, and an integrated experience to move forward with their own transformation — leapfrogging the federal government for their own digital transformation success.
With the goal to make the CX better and to upgrade their operations for greater efficiency, we will soon see those ASCI stats rebound for the better and will each personally experience a model business operation in government.
STATE’S BOOST IN PRODUCTIVITY
CASE IN POINT: HAWAII
In a recent GovLoop webinar, “Shred the Paper: How Electronic Signatures are Transforming the Way Governments Work,” Darryl Lajola, IT Service Delivery Specialist at the Office of Enterprise Technology Services – State of Hawaii, provided these facts on his State’s experience in moving to electronic signatures:
TWO WEEKS TO TWO DAYS – Instead of waiting a couple of weeks for signatures, it now takes two days.
12 STEPS TO 5 STEPS – Instead of printing, scanning and mailing, they use digitized forms with e-signatures that can be emailed for their signers.
$5 MILLION SAVED – just for using e-signatures.
IMPROVEDCX & EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE – faster response times for customers & quicker workflow for employees.
OFFERING THE DIGITAL DOOR
CASE IN POINT: DELAWARE
In a recent GovLoop “CIO Conversations” post, “Delaware CIO Talks IT Centralization, Data Analytics,” James Collins, CIO, State of Delaware, provided insight on their transformation:
• GOAL: Single digital door for citizens
o UPGRADED THE CX: Agencies can deliver services online and via mobile.
o SAVING LIVES: Implemented text to 911.
o ONE PORTAL FOR ALL AGENCIES’ DATA – By Governor’s Executive Order every agency required to inventory data & publish it.
• FUTURE PLANS: Integration.
o BUSINESS PORTAL: (2019) For new businesses with integrations initially to DE Dept. of Labor, Division of Corporations and Divisions of Revenue.
o CITIZEN PORTAL: One-stop “shopping” for constituents.