A Data-Powered Flywheel For Better Citizen Relationships
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A Data-Powered Flywheel For Better Citizen Relationships

By Greg Smiley, CIO, Office of Information Technology, Florida Department of Transportation

Greg Smiley, CIO, Office of Information Technology, Florida Department of Transportation

Government organizations are reimagining how they interact and engage with their citizens. After all, delivering services to citizens is a core function for most of them and the basis for determining how well they are performing. With growing customer expectations fueling this need, organizations are turning to digital transformation strategies to enable the change necessary to meet those needs. For this reason, information technology is at the heart of this effort. Ironically, the key to improving human to human interfaces is by focusing on one of the most non-human assets throughout each layer of interaction: data.

As with most fundamental transformations, change is easiest when it radiates outward from a single focal point. This is known as the flywheel effect, where tremendous power exists in continuous improvement and delivery of great results. Momentum builds when people see progress and feel the enthusiasm surrounding the success they have. In this case, the first step is focusing internally within your IT organization between areas of responsibility where IT is both the customer and the service provider. It is most important to focus on the work hand-offs and the process of requesting and responding across areas of IT. The fundamental role of data in this stage is in the form of metrics to measure success and find areas for improvement. Since this is within the IT organization, it is much easier to make adjustments quickly. Measure processes, identify and evaluate the various metrics and key performance indicators that can pinpoint failures and show progress. Identifying the time that a process takes from start to finish through each of the communication points is a building block to delivering great customer service to a wider audiences.

"Improving citizen relationships is all about refining the four main layers of interaction. Build the processes to deliver great customer service and then scale them throughout the organization"

As we widen the scope to internal customers across functional areas outside of IT, data takes center stage as the business enabler. Data governance and accessibility becomes crucial because the data is coming from anywhere within the organization or externally. It is important that consumers feel confident in the quality of the data if they are going to make decisions based on it. Certain data elements originating from within IT can then be used to show the value the rest of the organization is getting out of their IT investment. As an example, we recently experienced an outage across the enterprise that caused significant disruption. In the mass notification we included metrics that showed the level of effort the IT staff had put into resolving the issue. The response was overwhelmingly positive, with quotes such as “Wow! I didn’t realize you guys did all that for us.” When you close that feedback loop, the value IT provides becomes more apparent and the resulting momentum that comes from tightly aligned functional areas empowers the organization to provide better service to its citizens.

After the first two stages, citizens start to see better service from the organization in the form of results and decision-making. Having quality data in the hands of employees ready to provide information to the public further establishes and supports that reputation. The prerequisites from the previous stage become even more important as the stakes become higher. Your data needs proper governance. It needs metadata to explain context to non-subject matter experts. It also needs a security designation so sensitive information is not shared. These steps are necessary to give the data the freedom of exchange that is needed. It is important to highlight that the value of data increases the more it is shared. This is the point where most organizations aspire and stop, but don’t stop here. The organization is still communicating in a silo – citizens will still have a difficult time understanding separation of agency responsibilities. Who has time to figure out which agency, bureau, office, district, or division they need to contact for services or information? When a call is transferred five times and the end result is that the citizen needed to contact a different agency, it doesn’t matter how great your internal processes are. When separate organizations are able to interface their data, citizens enjoy a more unified experience.

At the apex of the maturity model is the capability of separate government organizations to operate as a unified service provider. With governance as one of the highest priorities, data can be freely shared horizontally and vertically across entities as inter-agency communication is woven together. Although it remains important to continue to show value through data as statistics, the emphasis is more on the customer experience and citizen journey as the demonstration of value.

Improving citizen relationships is all about refining the four main layers of interaction. Build the processes to deliver great customer service and then scale them throughout the organization. The gap from internal process improvements to stellar multi-agency customer experiences is extensive; however, data is what can drive the flywheel of the former to build momentum toward the latter.

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