The government should ditch the agency-by-agency approach to customer service and instead organize around births, deaths and other life events, according to a good government group.

The American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC) is proposing the government organize around important events in taxpayers' lives in order to reduce duplicative programs and better serve customers.

"The principle is thinking about how the government interacts with its constituents in ways that are not bound by organizational structure," said Rick Holgate, government chair of ACT-IAC. Life events are easier to understand than each agency and its mission, he added.

In a report released November, 2014, ACT-IAC said the system would also benefit government workers by helping to alleviate the conflicting rules, duplicative activities and disruptive political forces that can work to undermine efficient delivery of citizen services.

"Service backlogs and mismanaged customer experiences are leaving the public asking what their tax dollars are really getting them. Likewise, byzantine procedures and restrictive policies are demoralizing public servants, who entered government because they wanted to make a difference but can't find a way through organizational barriers," according to the report.

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While agencies would remain organized as they were, agencies would instead pool their services and resources around developing end-to-end tools for taxpayers experiencing a life event. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is an example of an agency structured entirely around natural disasters and coordinating resources for survivors.

But other life events include the birth of a child, change in employment status, serious injury, home purchase or even deciding to pursue a college degree, according to the report.

USA.gov is an early example of that concept, but agencies will need a much larger and robust effort to bring all the resources a citizen needs to one destination or portal, Holgate said.

A government services model based around life events would also benefit agencies by:

  • Building trust in government services by making those services easier to find, navigate and use.
  • Expanding the resources available to deliver specific services as agencies partner to deliver similar services and saving the agencies involved time and money.
  • Creating a 21st century service centered around the digital delivery of services and agile development of future tools to deliver those services.

The life-event approach will require a governmentwide effort and significant process reform in order to establish a foothold, according to Dan Chenok, ACT-IAC industry chair.

But first agencies must tackle a culture that is resistant to sharing resources, IT architecture and stakeholder groups and instead form a collaborative environment centered around the customer.

"It's not an insurmountable obstacle, but it requires the government to develop significant cross-agency collaboration and commitment," Chenok said.

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