- By Rich Kellett
- Sep 28, 2000
Use the Internet to conduct electronic transactions with the public. That
was the clear message delivered at this month's Information Resources Management
E-government increases the velocity of transactions, achieves dramatic savings
in conducting transactions with the public and significantly reduces the
costs for customer service, said Marty Wagner, an IRMCO speaker and an associate
administrator at the General Services Administration.
But the simple concept of conducting transactions via the Web becomes surprisingly
complicated. In addition to implementing a number of new technologies, the
Webmaster quickly becomes the focal point for delivering new business processes
and becomes directly responsible for the customer relationships of the agency
across a broad front of federal services.
Rather than resist increasing interactions with the public, it is time to
embrace yet another new trend: the interdependence of Web sites.
We have all heard the term "interoperability," but it term tends to focus
on the technology aspects of systems working together. The Web raises the
bar much higher. The Web, true to its form to increase the pace of change,
has caused interoperability to "morph" further into the concept of "interdependence."
Interdependence means that for your Web site to be effective in delivering
the products and services of your agency, you must also support the efforts
of others that provide the glue that connects all Web sites.
Implementing a successful Web site means implementing your Web site in the
context of recognizing, supporting and facilitating interdependence. Agency
Web sites are simultaneously interdependent across and outside of the federal
government, the American public and the international "public." You need
their Web sites, and they need your Web site. No Web site exists in a vacuum.
Activities such as registering with search engines, the use of metatags
and compliance with taxonomies are just some early indications of the much
more pervasive and far-reaching impact interdependence will have on your
Current and emerging federal portals such as FirstGov, FinanceNet, GSA Advantage,
g-Bay, eBuy and others will impact your Web site much more directly. These
new portals represent just the start of what interdependence means for your
Web site, your agency's business and you.
But the most significant impact of interdependence will be the rise of "process
To understand the true nature of the intermediary function on the Web, start
with thinking about the role of public associations such as the Red Cross.
Associations function as an intermediary with the executive branch by organizing,
summarizing and presenting the needs and goals of a much larger group of
people. It would be impossible to meet individually with each subscriber
or participant in an association.
The real impact is best illustrated by thinking about companies such as
H&R Block Inc. Imagine the size of the Internal Revenue Service if it
had to duplicate the support that H&R Block and others in the tax preparation
industry provide to the nation.
As the business processes of the federal government go online, portals that
help the public understand and interact with the federal government will
grow. This is already a huge business before the Web.
As the federal government implements online transactions, we will need "process
intermediaries" to help with the huge volume of interactions a more direct
interface with the public implies. Technology can help, but there will always
be a need for the direct human-to-human interaction. When looking across
America today, the federal government could not become "big enough" to handle
the support that process intermediaries provide.
The point here is to recognize that we are already interdependent with the
"process intermediaries" and to embrace this reality on our Web sites. As
we go online with our business processes (forms and transactions), the process
intermediaries will become ever increasingly important. At the simplest
level, we will need to link to the "process intermediaries" on our Web sites.
These relationships will grow far deeper than a mere hyperlink. Through
creative architectures, we can support both the letter and spirit of our
current legal environment regarding our relationships with industry and
the public. My recommendations are as follows:
1. Participate in the cross-government activities of the CIO Council so
that your Web site becomes integrated with the larger federal government
2. Seek out inclusion in high-level portals that are available or being
implemented so that your Web site is more easily found.
3. Begin to integrate "process intermediaries" with your Web site as you
implement your on-line transactions. I would even recommend to go so far
as to begin to foster a strategy of helping the development of a tier of
"process intermediaries" if the industry you participate in has not already
—Kellett is founder of the Federal Web Business Council, co-chairman of the
Federal WebMasters Forum and is director of GSA's Emerging IT Policies Division.