Digital Governance

Good for government, good for citizens

Ed Meehan

On Nov. 23, every federal agency will be expected to meet an important deadline set six months ago by the White House: the establishment of a digital governance structure within their organizations. Creating new governance processes and models, focusing on improving customer experiences, and investing in capabilities through Web, mobile and social media channels will enable the government to interact more efficiently and effectively with the public.

According to the White House directive, the Digital Government Strategy is intended to provide citizens and our growing mobile workforce with access to “high-quality digital government information and services anywhere, anytime, on a mobile device.” It also aims to beef up the government’s use and management of new digital technology in “smart, secure and affordable ways” and “unlock the power of government data to spur innovation” and improve citizen services.

As more and more people go digital, they are gaining the power to initiate and dictate the dynamics of the citizen-to-government relationship. A recent Accenture survey showed that people around the world are eager to conduct more of their government business virtually. As a result, aligning digital government initiatives with the intent, expectations and preferences of digital citizens has taken on heightened importance, underscored by the White House directive.

Digital governance is critical to every agency’s mission. Good governance is strengthened by investing wisely in the resources that can improve the digital experiences of citizens and boost customer satisfaction. In order to make the right investment choices, agencies must first develop a solid understanding of how users currently interact with government and how they are likely to interact when digital enhancements are introduced.

Redirecting customer interactions to digital channels can help improve efficiency and cut costs. In “Determine the True Costs of Web Self-Service,” Gartner analyst Johan Jacobs writes that telephone-based customer service can cost as much as $27 to $55 per call, compared to $5 or $6 for a Web-based chat.

As federal agencies continue to face an era of dwindling resources, a digital governance structure that more strategically focuses funds to meet the needs of citizens rather than the needs and desires of individual departments stands a better chance of meeting the public’s expectations.

Digital governance promotes a standardized look and feel to agency resources, thereby providing users with a consistent, cohesive digital experience. At the same time, it creates a flexible, integrated framework that alleviates the need for individual departments to reinvent the wheel for each digital interaction, which saves time and money.

Investments, campaigns and decision-making processes will be much better aligned when agencies implement digital governance. That, in turn, will make it easier for them to answer critical questions about which technologies and channels to invest in, which technologies and services can be shared, which publishing standards should be implemented and which digital decisions are driving the greatest customer satisfaction.

Digital governance will enable agencies to share resources more effectively, manage diverse IT platforms in a uniform manner and ensure a consistent user experience that is in line with the innovations that commercial organizations have successfully deployed.

In building a digital governance structure, agencies must identify the responsible business owners and decision-makers, develop processes for making decisions to establish guidelines and project priorities, and determine metrics for success by adopting a citizen-centric view.

Digital governance groundbreakers

Even as the process of building digital governance structures and putting them to work across the network of federal agencies evolves, several agencies have already begun to embrace and implement some of the core components of digital governance.

The Agriculture Department, for example, has been improving and standardizing the look and feel of all the department’s websites by hosting monthly webmaster meetings. The Labor Department is building a knowledge management program that integrates data from its 25 agencies and call centers, including answers to the most frequently asked questions, with the aim of building a cohesive customer experience.

Additionally, the Census Bureau is transforming its digital presence across Web, mobile and social channels. Beginning with basic Web publishing guidelines, the bureau is defining, training and enforcing standards to ensure that Web content is high quality and capitalizes on search engine optimization. The bureau has also established a governance model to ensure that its presence on social media channels is synchronized and delivers consistent messages, and  is moving quickly to apply governance to its mobility investments, including public-facing mobile applications and those used internally by agency employees.

It is clear that digital governance can be achieved. Properly executed, it will support cost savings, foster decision-making focused on the needs of the American taxpayer and ensure that every digital dollar is spent wisely.

About the Author

Ed Meehan is managing director of Accenture’s U.S. federal civilian agencies portfolio.

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