7 Citizen Experience Considerations for Government Agencies

During the recent virtual 2020 NASTD Annual Conference, moderator “Virtual Vicki” guided various government technology leaders from across the county on a journey exploring the challenges that agencies face while serving their customers in 2020.

The following are the seven takeaways from the event.

  1. Virtual is your friend. Embrace virtual. That was the key message of the opening session, “First Things First: CYA (Check Your Attitude)” by Matt Booth, MAC, CSP. He also noted that, during this time of change and uncertainty, attendees were challenged to check their attitudes. To protect your energy, he noted you should be aware of the negativity in your life. Get the sleep that you need; get back to your routines and plan for the day. If you’re ready for something more, volunteer your time and give back to the community. And again, remember: Virtual is our friend.
  2. Digital transformation and business continuity are foundational elements. Within government, digital transformation occurred nearly overnight. Agencies needed to enable employees to work from home and implement business continuity plans while still serving citizens. Panelists shared that automation, chatbots, and self-service were key technologies that allow agencies to be more efficient and help citizens help themselves.  Beyond a continued need for automation, panelists shared the importance and necessity for testing the effectiveness of business continuity plans. This includes proactively training employees as well as addressing security and disaster recovery plans. For insight from government peers on how to use automation to improve their citizen experiences, check out the GovLoop Research Brief.
  3. Be sure you’re ready for artificial intelligence (AI) and that it’s right for you. Dr. Ipek Ozkaya, Technical Director of Engineering Intelligent Software Systems Group, Carnegie Mellon University/Software Engineering Institute (SEI), took a deep dive into AI. Foundational recommendations for decision-makers should include the following:
    • Ensure you have a problem that AI can — and should — solve
    • Take your data seriously so it doesn’t consume your project
    • Design for interpretation of the inherent ambiguity in the output
    • Incorporate user experience and interactions to constantly validate and evolve
    • Treat ethics as both a software design consideration and a policy concern

    Virtual Vicki also shared her session takeaways. First, manage data before it manages you. Second, every decision you make effects a future design; start small.

  4. Determine the right cloud strategy. Cloud isn’t a person, place or thing. And it’s provided in different ways. Panelists noted that business continuity is a key driver for the move to the cloud. Legacy systems are one of the biggest agency risks. In addition, cloud technology innately offers an advantage over on-premises capabilities.According to John Hoffman, Chief Technology Officer and Interim State Chief Information Officer for the State of Texas, understanding your network configuration — and how it’s tied into the systems — is key. And, even though there’s a concern about technology in business continuity plans, you still need to focus on the people and processes — and how business continuity is set up. Cloud is a tool within that; it’s part of the solution, but not the whole solution.Gary Buonacorsi, Chief Technology Officer, SLED at Tanium, noted agencies are challenged to make their decisions for their cloud strategies based on the business needs, their agency’s missions, and the outcomes they identify for the agency and its citizens. Agencies can follow these best practices when migrating to the cloud.
  5. Embrace tensions between business partnerships and IT. As IT and agencies move forward, IT must be relevant in times of digital transformation. “The Future of IT” from Forrester notes that “Technology leadership is business leadership in the future market, and that simple but powerful reality will reshape expectations for – and the nature of – the IT organization.”Kip Fanta, CBRM – Principal at Kip Fanta Group, kicked off the session “Business Relationship Management (BRM): Moving Provider to Partner” by sharing that you must embrace the tensions between business partnerships and IT. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.In the journey to achieve business leadership, Kip shared these key BRM behaviors:
    • Humility
    • Political savviness
    • Inquisitiveness
    • Fearlessness
    • Entrepreneurial spirit
    • Executive presence
    • Leadership
  6. Information-sharing is key to cybersecurity. In the cybersecurity war, information sharing is a must. The panel agreed with Maria Thompson, Chief Risk Officer at the State of North Carolina: Information sharing goes beyond the government space. And it encompasses both the private and public sectors. We need to be sure our companies and agencies are secure and take the whole-country approach to cybersecurity.In addition to information sharing, expect more from vendors. Use your vendors as an educational resource to understand attacks, understand the bigger picture of cybersecurity, and then use that information to assess how to solve the problem. Education comes first.
  7. Focus on agility, resiliency, and uncertainty. Agility, resiliency, and uncertainty were the defining terms during the “State of the State,” which reviewed the 2020 NASCIO CIO Top 10 priorities.At the start of 2020, digital government was second on the list of priorities — higher than previous years. This year also is the first time that “innovation” and “transformation from technology” were featured in the top 10. But in March, the impact of COVID-19 intensified and shifted these priorities.

Digital government became the number one priority, as agencies quickly pivoted to address call deflection, unemployment needs in the call centers, etc. Services in the cloud became easier to handle remotely.

Digital government services and citizen experience will remain key focus areas as agencies continue to move forward.

Genesys is a member of the NASTD community. For information on the NASTD virtual conference or to attend one of its many educational sessions in the future, please visit NASTD online.

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