How to choose what services to post on a Web site

Are you a federal Webmaster? Do you feel like you have too much work to do? You probably do, and the increasing focus on electronic services is going to add to what has already been a fast-paced environment for Webmasters.

The Government Paperwork Elimination Act, White House pronouncements and the public's expectations are creating a tidal wave of new requirements. You can't do it all. Instead, as we move forward on e-services, priorities must be set to allocate resources for federal World Wide Web sites.

Two models dominate the process for prioritizing funds for federal programs. One model, the traditional model, is what I call the "public service model." In this model, the federal government prioritizes and funds programs based on the greatest public good. Generally, those projects are predominately based on appropriations and the direct customers are generally stakeholders such as Congress.

The second model is what I call the private sector "e-services model." In this model, the prioritization and investing in programs is based on the amount of revenue and profit that can be earned. The direct customer is the public.

Those following the e-services model will tend to choose projects that generate the most revenue. The appeal of the e-services model is that once the electronic version of business processes are in place, it's possible to lower transaction costs to, in effect, zero. The problem the federal government faces in considering this model is that, for example, many services provided for the public should be provided for free or at a very nominal cost to ensure equitable access. This conflicts with the concept of generating the most revenue.

So, how does a federal Webmaster decide how to prioritize funds for e-services projects? The first step is to define how the current activity is already like e-services. In the federal government, at one end of the scale there is no competitive price and the revenue for the project is provided by appropriations (the public benefit model). More often than not, Congress is the direct customer and only indirectly is the public a customer.

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At the other end of the scale, the federal government is charging a competitive price and is competing for direct customers and market share (the private sector e-services model). In the federal government, the following types of e-services activities emerge as shown in figure 1. As can be seen from figure 1, it is apparent that many activities will not fit a private-sector e-services model. In fact, in most programs, there will be attributes of the public benefit model and the private-sector e-services model. For example, a friendlier Internal Revenue Service implies a balance between congressional interests, the stakeholder and customer-oriented e-services.

Step 2 is to define how much an activity should model e-services. The debate needs to transition from transforming to the e-services model to, instead, how much should a particular activity be transformed into the e-services model (or retreat back to the public benefit model). How the balance is struck will define the features of the project which in turn defines the costs.

Step 3 is to develop a business case with particular emphasis on the financial analysis and to compete the project in the capital planning process for each federal agency. I would also suggest that the framework provided in figure 1 provide a methodology for describing agency strategies for the portfolio of e-services projects.

MORE INFO

Rich Kellett's full presentation on the e-services model.

BY Rich Kellett
Feb. 10, 2000

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