It’s Time for Government to Change the Conversation

In a new guide written by Pega and GovLoop, The Future of Digital Public Services, colleague Thom Rubel, Pega’s Public Sector Business Line Leader, states, “Just look at the outcome, go backwards and examine every step along the way. Once you make it about the customer or the outcome, you change the discussion.

I want to highlight what changing the discussion means for government agencies today. It’s about focusing on correct priorities and being able to leverage technology to really do more with less. In today’s resource-strained times, it’s incumbent on government agencies to take new approaches to citizen services. While new technologies have made it easier than ever for citizens to contact agencies, those same agencies are in many cases hamstrung to resolve a myriad of inquiries. This puts more pressure on old, inflexible legacy systems, not to mention IT and customer service. There are several areas where government needs to change the discussion, including:

  • Mobile is a channel, not a strategy,
  • Digitize to modernize – this is the only way government will be able to be “digital by design”, and
  • Focus on the customer or outcome – think outside in, rather than inside out.

Omni-Channel – not Mobile – should be the Strategy

There is a lot of talk about mobile-first strategies today in government; this is just one example of where the conversation needs to change. Mobile is simply another technology that could and should be used by government to fulfill their missions. If mobile is taken in isolation as a strategy, then we’ll only see more disparate information silos and complex processes. In Pega Founder and CEO Alan Trefler’s new book, Build for Change, he gives a great example of how BB&T – the 12th largest bank in the country – has handled several challenges including channel silos. Government can benefit from these very same lessons learned by the private sector.

Alan advises, “Don’t bake too much into a given venue. You want to reach into each channel or venue where the process needs to be accessible, but you do not want to lock processes into specific channels by making them, in a sense, part of each different channel’s unique code”. The mobile-first conversation needs to be an omni-channel discussion. Build it once and have it available to all channels customers would like to use, with the ability to seamlessly switch from one channel to another. The USDA and The Swedish Federation of Unemployment Insurance Funds, both Pega clients, do this very well, our guide notes.

Digital by Design is a Strategy

Digital by design requires a strategy to ensure all actions, - mobile, cloud, etc., revolves around the type of abilities needed to help engage with customers, simplify operations, and ensure the ability to respond to changing requirements. Most government agencies tend to have one of two mindsets. Either they can’t possibly deliver digital government until their legacy systems are modernized, or digital government services are being developed in an isolated, siloed fashion with patchwork integration into legacy systems. The conversation needs to instead focus on creating digital government services, while simultaneously and successfully modernizing legacy systems, using a phased approach. The challenge of legacy system modernization actually promotes opportunities for digital government! Instead of taking three years to modernize internal systems, Texas Country and District Retirement System is taking a digital approach to enhance the services used most frequently by their customers and employees, our guide shows.

Organize from the Outside In

In government, everything is a case and everything has a process. Doug Averill, BPM Director for the State of Maine, says, “In reality, government takes in information, does processing of some kind and spits out some result – more data, money or some service. We don’t really manufacture anything. We’re basically all about business processes. So that’s the case for BPM in the state of Maine – or anywhere in the public sector”. Yet, we’re not talking about traditional business process re-engineering. Rather – business process needs to be turned inside out. Think in terms of the outcome: how do customers engage with government agencies?

Additionally, the ability to think of business processes in terms of layers brings a multi-dimensional aspect that mirrors the real world. Being able to re-use common processes and only differentiate where necessary is what government agencies taking traditional development approaches have been missing. What are the common processes used between applications for a professional license versus a fishing or hunting license? What is different? Which processes can be completely automated? The differences usually relate to the different types of customers, services, geographies, or channels. As Alan notes in his book, “Fail to think in layers, and the customer experience on the phone will diverge inappropriately from the customer experience on the Web…”. There are several customers seeing success with this, including the State of Maine and New South Wales Transport Management Centre, which have developed applications using iBPM that focus on automation and reuse. The Swedish Federation of Unemployment Insurance Funds used a layering approach to create a customer-centric solution, which simplified their business processes, making them easily changeable for different requirements.

Our guide concludes with three valuable tips: 1. make HR as adaptable as the enterprise; 2. ensure you have change management guides to navigate the enterprise; and 3. (my favorite) quietly experiment to allow for missteps. In a previous blog, I wrote about how important it is for government agencies to experiment so they can achieve quick wins. Many innovative private sector corporations take this approach.

We would like to thank several partners and customers who helped contribute to The Future of Digital Public Services by sharing their experiences, including:

  • The State of Maine
  • United States Department of Agriculture
  • New South Wales Transport Management Centre
  • The Swedish Federation of Unemployment Insurance Funds
  • Texas Country and District Retirement System
  • Accenture Federal Services
  • Architech Solutions

The Future of Digital Public Services
Learn how digital innovation has helped government agencies enabled changes that appear small on the surface, but which have had a monumental impact on customer service and efficiency.