Connecting With The Digital Citizen

Accenture's Elaine Beeman outlines the principles of the federal Digital Playbook and how they relate to projects like relaunching

Elaine Beeman, Managing Director, Accenture Federal Services Management Consulting

October 27, 2014

4 Min Read

The biggest digital challenge for government is not implementing private-sector technologies. The biggest challenge is giving savvy citizens what they want on their terms, while still delivering taxpayer savings.

From online portals to mobile, to self-service kiosks, the rise of digital has forever changed how people live and work. Consumer demand for access, relevance, and personalization has redefined business-to-consumer interaction in every industry. The digital wave also is transforming the relationship between citizens and government. Federal agencies like the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are focused on aligning with the White House's Digital Services Playbook, implementing best practices for building effective digital services like Web and mobile applications.

Accenture is working collaboratively with CMS to help drive the agency's commitment to create a positive customer experience on the website, one of the most visible federal websites within the federal government. For example, we've taken a number of steps to address the needs of issuers of insurance plans, including streamlining the 2015 plan management function, simplifying the process for making updates to plans, and implementing tools and processes to respond to help desk tickets.

[Ready to stop cutting back? Read Government IT's Next Step: Digital Investment.]

Across the federal government, agencies are building and enhancing digital channels and solutions for citizen access and interaction. Each must address its own opportunities and obstacles, including budget shortfalls and aging IT infrastructure, while navigating unique social, cultural, and political realities. This is an important move for federal CIOs because digital interactions save money -- they cost 80% less than non-digital interactions.

In developing a strategy for connecting with digital citizens at a time and in a way that is convenient to them, CIOs must begin by understanding the strengths and limitations of the digital channels at their disposal. Digital is not about monolithic access and interaction. Instead, it encompasses a variety of interaction options appropriate for different needs:

Website or portal: a secure Internet site allowing self-service for multiple transactions with or across government organizations.

Mobile websites and apps: secure websites and applications optimized for mobile devices that allow self-service and transaction processing on the go.

Electronic emergency broadcasts and alerts: a service that sends emergency alerts via email or text/messaging to a mobile device.

Electronic renewal alerts: alerts sent via e-mail or mobile device as reminders of recurring or time-sensitive transactions.

Secure identity as a service: a single identity enabling access to multiple government and private sector services.

As CIOs help their agencies provide more modernized, cost-effective services across these channels, they must remain committed to delivering citizen services at the point of need -- the right service to the right person at the right time. Digital government solutions play a significant role in the realization of this vision -- but some citizens remain skeptical.

While nearly one-quarter of US survey respondents identified no barriers that prevent them from interacting with the government via digital channels, three out of ten identified concerns with the security of sharing personal data. To counteract perceived risk, it is critical that federal agencies successfully demonstrate the "returns" of sharing data -- greater access and more personalized services, at a lower cost to the taxpayer.

There are other recommendations for digital adoption in the Digital Services Playbook that are supported by Accenture's research:

In with the new. To build effective digital government services that are consistently used by citizens, agencies must avoid the trap of simply replicating and digitizing old processes that are inherently ineffective. Instead, when going digital, CIOs must take a holistic look at existing processes and build online services with a differentiated approach that takes into account, and full advantage of, the entire spectrum of benefits of the online channel.

Knowledge is power. The best digital programs give citizens what they want. The more governments understand their citizens' needs, preferences, and intent, the more relevant their digital programs will be. Because digital services create a citizen footprint in a way that isn't possible with traditional services, governments can use direct citizen insights to inform and enhance continuous improvements and enable better service design and delivery.

Create one door. From e-government's infancy, agencies have made various inroads in breaking down organizational and process silos to better integrate citizen service, and technology has played a large role in facilitating this. As digital programs mature, it will continue to be important to create consistent "one-stop-shop" service experiences for citizens that leverage automation, customization, and customer-insight analytics.

CIOs focused on cutting costs have the opportunity to do so in a way that builds in digital capacity and empowers new efficiencies during a time when the public is eager to embrace better, more efficient ways to access government services.

It doesn't matter whether your e-commerce D-Day is Black Friday, tax day, or some random Thursday when a post goes viral. Your websites need to be ready. Get the new Battle-Tested Websites issue of InformationWeek Tech Digest today. (Free registration required.)

About the Author(s)

Elaine Beeman

Managing Director, Accenture Federal Services Management Consulting

Elaine Beeman leads the management consulting practice for Accenture Federal Services, with responsibility for the sales and delivery of management consulting work for US civilian, defense, intelligence, and public safety agencies. She specializes on strategy, talent and organization performance, customer relationship management, supply chain and logistics, finance and enterprise performance, and analytics.

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights