Meet Citizen Needs by Optimizing Transactions – Leave 1960s Era Processes Behind

Meet Citizen Needs by Optimizing Transactions – Leave 1960s Era Processes Behind

By Brian Paget

In this post let’s look at how to stop replicating 1960s processes in digital and instead re-form your data collection processes. Let’s also look at how responsive web information online is not what citizens want. Instead, they want optimized transactions.

Re-form your data collection processes and stop replicating 1960s processes in digital

85% or more of government processes start with a form and almost 100% of these forms were optimized to be filled out with a pen on a piece of paper. Over the years, we have moved electronic copies of these forms online, but now it is time now to re-imagine what the form should be.

Stop making paper forms electronic. Instead re-think how you would deliver a brand new user experience that replaces the form electronic or not and use:

  • Images, icons, video
  • Dynamic media content like you might see when customizing a car online
  • Mobile friendly ways of collecting data optimized to require as little typing as possible

Imagine if a Government agency had designed a great consumer experience like NikeID (http://www.nike.com/us/en_us/c/nikeid). Instead of being simple, intuitive, and mobile friendly it would be a long complicated paper form with every imaginable combination of shoes reflected in a list with checkboxes. Keeping this in mind, don’t focus on a form as the only way to collect information, rather re-imagine the process and when required generate an official form at the end of the process.

1960’s era forms are good for:

  • Giving a citizen a printable receipt of their transaction
  • Archiving information in your agency’s content repository
  • Ensuring your agency complies with legislated guidelines for collecting and storing information in a standard Form

1960’s era forms are not good at:

  • Collecting information across multiple devices
  • Delivering an interface which collect the most information with the least amount of typing
  • Driving down the overall cost for an agency and delivering a benefit

Simply taking these paper optimized forms and making them electronic provides an experience that is not at all intuitive on a desktop computer and often not usable on a mobile device. This leads to people finding the quickest way to download and print the form then fill out with a pen and mail it in. Now think about the experience you go through with Turbo Tax. Turbo Tax collects your data through an intuitive-guided process that at the end creates the official IRS 1040 Forms as a receipt for you and a submission to be archived by the IRS. In government we can deliver these same intuitive experiences while still meeting form mandates.

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When starting to design a process that begins with a form, stop to think about what the process would look like if the paper form never existed, what you are trying to do, what user experience makes the most sense, and what images and icons can help. This re-imaging of the form can help you re-form you data collection process and not simply replicate 1960’s processes in digital.

Information online is not what citizens want – optimized transactions are

We’ve done a great job in government at moving lots of information online where https://18f.gsa.gov/2014/12/18/a-complete-list-of-gov-domains/ shows we have more than 5,300 .gov domains. Based on Adobe’s own survey we found 37% of those websites are already responsively designed making it easy to consume across devices, compared with less than 20% of commercial site deliver responsive information online. 

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But we are still not seeing the results we want. We are still serving too many people in person and on phones. Why is this?

  • Optimizing information online is not what we need.
  • The benefit to the agency and citizen comes from optimized transactions with government.

Optimized transactions are what the commercial world has done and done well. Major websites like Amazon, Apple, and Walmart only recently went responsive, but all of these companies have been driving lots of transactions on mobile for many years.

Commercial did this because they realized optimizing transactions is most important. Information is secondary, so if I create a really good mobile app that lets me purchase stuff easily consumers, or a simple mobile-specific site to transact business, customers are happy and revenue is growing. So R&D in these companies ruthlessly focused on optimizing how to get money out of your pocket rather than giving you easy-to-consume information on their website.

Government agencies don’t have to figure out how to get money out of your pocket. However, to truly gain the ROI of going digital agencies need to make sure digital transactions are optimized.

If you have ever interacted with a government website you know that a transaction with a government agency – like applying for a passport, renewing driver’s license, obtaining a health benefit – all start and end with a form. So to move beyond 1960’s era forms technology make sure you consider the following.

  • Stop focusing on only delivering responsive information online.
  • Instead be responsive to your customers by ruthlessly focusing limited resources on making it as easy to transact business with government, as it is to buy shoes from Zappos.
  • Measure, report, and celebrate your agencies digital transactions by driving down the overall cost to your agency to serve a benefit and greatly increasing citizen satisfaction.

You might like to see my related presentation on the Evolution of Customer Experience Technology  with a focus on the public sector.

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