Customer experience in government is not a brand-new term or approach. The process was introduced nearly ten years ago through an aspiration to bring the power of human-centric design and innovation practices to federal organizations.

The federal government provides systems that citizens across the country rely on daily and for some of the most important moments in their lives, including financial needs, healthcare support, business-related approvals, and much more. When it comes to interactions with government, poor experiences with agencies deteriorate trust in government.

Recognizing this, the federal government has made a notable investment in enhancing citizen experience, or CX, including through President Biden’s December 2021 CX Executive Order. The EO represents the first time the CX movement has been publicly championed with the power of an executive mandate, requiring federal leaders to meet specific commitments.

While significant progress has been made toward this effort of intertwining CX and human-centered design into government processes, continued reliance on legacy technology and conflicting priorities pose challenges for organizations. As agencies move forward with CX as a priority, two key principles—taking a citizen-first approach and establishing platform governance — will keep modernization moving forward in a way that more efficiently addresses citizen needs.

CX begins with the citizen

Now, a year after the order was issued, agency leaders must look to the lessons learned to develop, fine tune, and improve approaches to CX, starting with a human-centered approach. Unfortunately, the federal government is still struggling to improve key customer experience measures like satisfaction and trust.

Centering CX strategies around the human experience allows leaders to not only comply with the EO, but genuinely accelerate the performance of government systems for all. Agency leaders must understand how citizens and employees interact with the systems they rely upon in order to tailor solutions around the human experience and citizen needs.

This starts with a review of the citizen journey to identify gaps and enable leaders to build solutions around these needs. It’s important to ask questions and research what citizens are accessing on a daily basis, what platforms they are using when doing so, and how they are continuing to use the information.

Agencies are already implementing this approach. The IRS, for example, is working to improve American taxpayers’ and administrators’ experience starting with a user journey analysis. The approach led to the development of e-signature forms and the Preparer Tax Identification Number prototypes that help better serve the approximately 150 million U.S. taxpayers.

CX isn’t just for citizens. It also improves the employee experience, which is crucial as government strives to attract top talent across federal roles. By understanding how federal employees interact with each workflow, agency leaders can build systems that support federal workers’ efficiency.

Platform governance

Starting with citizen needs is crucial to successful CX, but even with this common goal, different departments have their own priorities, complicating IT decision making, and many times resulting in duplicate efforts.

Platform governance is of utmost importance as many forms of technology interact with disparate systems and stakeholders. Successful platform governance identifies and manages cross-organizational demands simultaneously, reducing the odds that certain departments or offices will be alienated or lagging due to a slow, incremental implementation.

This starts with a concrete strategy that identifies specific objectives, resources, and procedures, while also determining if the technology is the best overall cross-organizational fit.

This can be supported by a demand board that can declare if a need is critical to business operations or a “nice to have,” how a technology will be used in action, and if processes and procedures are being followed properly. After having that understanding, the agency can deploy the technology with confidence and improve services that directly impact the citizen experience.

As technologies evolve and use cases change, placing people first in the platform development process and establishing platform governance to navigate competing priorities will position agencies for successful modernization. Regardless of where and what a team is working on, these approaches will put agencies on a rapid path for CX success.

Frank Antezana is the CEO and co-founder of iTech AG, a business technology consulting firm.

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