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Articles April 18, 2023

Reorienting Technology to Create a Meaningful Citizen Experience


Citizens are customers of both commercial and government services. Consider how different an individual’s online experience often is though, across companies and government agencies. For example, imagine you move to a new state. One thing you might do is obtain new internet service. You go to the local cable provider’s website, entered your address, and are immediately provided with multiple package options available for your location. You choose one, set up a new account, and scheduled a service appointment for two days later to have your service connected. The entire interaction takes no longer than 15 minutes.

That same person who moves to a new state often will also need to apply for a new drivers license and car registration. Will that interaction take less than 15 minutes? After reviewing multiple confusing state and municipality websites, completing several disparate online applications, and possibly visiting one or more in-person locations, hopefully that individual has obtained their license and registration. Their chances for success are also greatly impacted by their level of technology-proficiency, English as a first language, and disability status.

Unfortunately, the difference in experiences interacting with a commercial service provider and government agencies may not surprise you. When a company is challenging to deal with or provides you with poor service, you may decide to use a competitor. When working with a government agency is challenging, you likely have no alternative. Delivering services to citizens is core to most government agencies’ mission though and how the agency provides those services is critical in shaping the perception and trust in government.

When government websites and applications are confusing and citizens cannot get information they need, agencies can be perceived as unreliable. Citizens may feel a lack of trust or transparency, and may not feel that they have equitable access to services. In addition, when citizens struggle to access government services, more time, effort, and resources are expended to deliver the services that citizens have a right to – making it slower and more costly to provide those services.

Government websites and applications are largely built by each agency (individually, not state/city/jurisdiction-wide) and recreate their legacy, sometimes paper, processes. This approach may be easiest for the agency, to maintain status quo and ensure job security of the existing workforce, but it does not always serve the mission of agency. Government agencies should strive to understand citizens and stakeholders and provide services in the most simple, understandable, and equitable way. To do this, agencies should: 

  • Understand the citizens they serve. Agencies should conduct in-depth user research, journey mapping, and utilize analytics that describe user needs and interactions.
  • Simplify processes and rules. Start with the simplest approach to provide a service and then examine how to change processes, rules, laws, and workflows to accommodate the citizen and not the agency.
  • Simplify applications. Jurisdictions should coalesce around core application types, such as case management, information request, purchasing, as well as common functional architecture components (think: Calendar, Workflows, Notifications). Agencies should use common applications, with common cross-functional components, that are configured for their specific need.
  • Design interaction for how citizens and stakeholders will consume. Understand how citizens and stakeholders will access your web product. Prioritize meeting them where they are and provide equitable access, likely focusing on mobile-first and APIs, as well as decluttered, more text-based and accessible websites

By adopting these approaches, government agencies will meet citizens where they are and provide the most efficient access to services. They will also streamline IT spend on design, security, and infrastructure. 

Government agencies have an opportunity to re-orient technology to citizens and stakeholders to deliver services more effectively and with greater transparency.

When agencies reorient technology to better deliver services, they will build trust with their constituents, spend tax dollars more efficiently, and meet the equity expectations of those they serve. 

Many jurisdictions are already taking steps in this direction. For example, the Federal Government’s, which is nearing 100M users, is providing a common user access experience to a broad group of agencies such as OPM, VA, SBA, and USDA. 

Business processes, budgeting approach, and technology infrastructure can change – and always do. Progress is made in small steps by courageous leaders driven by mission.

Where do agencies start? Begin by better understanding citizens and how they experience your services. Utilize advocacy groups, user research, and pilot groups. Invest in re-thinking the journey of your user, to ensure that you are delivering valuable and equitable service in the most effective and cost-efficient way.

Jason Leonard

Principal, Lead for Healthcare and Public Services

Jason co-leads CapTech’s healthcare and public services portfolios, empowering consultant and client teams to innovate and develop scalable solutions that improve the customer experience and produce extraordinary results for our clients.

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Adam Hofheimer

Adam Hofheimer

Principal, Lead for Healthcare and Public Services

Adam co-leads CapTech’s healthcare and public services portfolios, supporting strategy, relationship and business development. His deep technical experience and industry expertise drive solutions and growth for our clients.

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Coe Sherrard

Coe Sherrard

Managing Director, Product Strategy

Coe is a leader in CapTech’s Energy & Utilities practice, supporting strategy, product development, and client delivery. Coe specializes in driving innovation and leading client teams through complex business and technology transformations.

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