Commentary: Georgia’s chief digital officer says creating a digital strategy can help a state build credibility with its citizens and align with their goals.
For the past several years, issues like security, cloud services, risk management and cost management have been bubbling to the top among the priorities of the C-suites across state governments as well as nongovernment organizations.
They are visible issues that force organizations and leaders to publicly deal with consequences if things go awry. These issues need attention. But many times leaders become focused on addressing these and other visible threats — so much so, that invisible threats hide in a blind spot. While watching for the canary to drop, leaders lose sight of where the rest of the teams are digging.
It was reassuring to see digital government listed as one of NASCIO’s top CIO priorities for 2018. States like Georgia have already prioritized digital services. In 2017, Georgia’s CIO created the Office of Digital Services (DSGa) within the Georgia Technology Authority. DSGa is tasked to work with state agencies and elected officials to make services easy, usable and efficient. But if you were to set a digital strategy for your organization, where do you begin?
Anatomy of a strategy
Citizens interact with your organization in several ways and patterns.
While a web transaction costs a fraction of an in-person transaction, you still need to design how these interactions fit into your larger plan of service delivery. Citizens expect a certain standard for online interactions. If your organization fails to meet those expectations, citizens may lose trust in your organization — a trust which is inherently dwindling when it comes to government. This is where having a solid digital strategy helps.
A digital strategy connects all the key dots so a citizen doesn't feel friction and employees can do their jobs efficiently. There is no formula for a digital strategy to ensure your organization’s success, but the first step is to prioritize it.
The following are the key elements for creating a digital strategy:
- Organization goals
- Citizen engagement
- Experience mapping
- Gap analysis
These elements should help you empower executives to lead digital initiatives, gauge their success and reiterate the strategy until you see the expected results.
The first step is to revisit your organization’s goals.
Organization and department goals
The most effective digital strategy strikes a perfect balance between your organization's and citizens' goals.
Typically, goals trickle across the organization and divide between departments and teams. As every department and every team within that department aims at meeting or exceeding these goals, we need to pause and make sure these goals come together to achieve the desired end result. This should not be a rat race to perform within assigned silos. Leading with organizational goals alone will only give you a partial picture. To understand if you and your teams are on the right track, you need to consider your citizens’ or customers’ goals. To understand your citizens’ goals, you need to do a citizen engagement study.
Citizen engagement is the North Star of any digital strategy. Technology is just the enabler. Unless you have a clear view of who your citizens are, it is premature to come up with technology solutions. To understand citizen engagement better, let's look at the elements of a citizen engagement:
- Who interacts with your organization? It is key to understand the goals and the motivations that drive citizens to your digital presence. This is called user segmentation.
- Where and how do they interact with your organization? How do they complete tasks to achieve their goals?
- What channels do they use? A channel is the medium of interaction between your citizens and your organization. Most citizens are comfortable using digital channels like websites, mobile apps, live chat, social media, and text messaging, but there might be a segment that prefers traditional channels like interacting in person or over the phone. Knowing this data, along with the context, helps in piecing together the citizen puzzle.
- What devices do they use? Older devices might inhibit citizens’ access to certain technology. And mobile devices allow native features like a camera and geolocation, but their screens are small and interactions are often interrupted.
- You can capture citizen information and engagement in the form of personas. Personas describe the characteristics and behavior patterns of your citizens. Pair personas with scenarios to capture the context and motivation of their interaction.
Digital Services Georgia offers a Personas workshop as part of the State Certified Content Specialist Course. You can also develop personas on your own with our template, available here.
Experience mapping is critical to your digital strategy, and is often the cause of pivots or resets. Mapping your citizen’s experience visualizes the process that a citizen follows to accomplish his or her goals. Based on a chosen scenario from citizen engagement, an experience map paints how a citizen approaches and interacts with your organization. The map reveals friction points and interaction gaps. It highlights the frustrating and satisfactory moments during the journey.
The anatomy of a citizen experience map includes the following elements:
- Persona and scenario — Before you start documenting and visualizing a journey, identify the who (persona) and why (scenario).
- Stages — Stages are the core divisions of the citizen journey. For example, if your organization manages a benefits program, the stages may include education, application, review, and retention.
- Touchpoints — Touchpoints are the exact times when a citizen interacts with your organization. Mapping all the touchpoints is key in uncovering inconsistencies and gaps.
- Channels — Capturing all the channels of interaction along with touchpoints aligns the experience with context.
- Citizen satisfaction — Most citizen journeys reference existing scenarios. This is a good point to insert survey ratings to see where a citizen might be struggling with your services.
- Organizational ownership — Lastly, list out the departments that support each particular touchpoint. No department wants to be listed by the lower citizen satisfaction marker. Visualizing the entire experience and associating with owners gets disinterested teams to understand how their silo affects or gets affected by other departments.
Digital Services Georgia offers a Citizen Journey Mapping workshop as part of the State Certified Content Specialist Course. You can also develop experience maps on your own with our template, available here.
Gap analysis and roadmap
Mapping experiences and understanding citizen engagements uncovers a wealth of information about how your services are consumed. If your organization is internal-facing and drives decisions based on processes and technology, the map helps identify gaps in how that affects citizens. As additional gaps are uncovered, it helps form a better digital strategy to address your organization goals. Conversations to make your organization citizen-centric can start with how you deliver services.
Finally, a roadmap for your organization’s services should be a key deliverable for your digital strategy. Government organizations need to design for citizen experience, and it’s important to consider how you deliver across all channels. Citizen-centric experiences create trust. If their experience isn’t consistent, citizens will question the organization’s credibility. A roadmap helps converge channels, devices, platforms, and conversations for an optimum citizen experience while meeting organizational goals.
Is your C-suite listening?
This change does not happen without an initiative from the C-suite. If you are a C-suite team member of an organization without a digital strategy, it is time to act. Digital strategy is not an armor or a firewall that will protect your presence; instead, it's a blueprint for a healthy ecosystem to boost your organization's digital immunity. It lends a platform to build an effective content strategy by focusing on understanding your citizens better. With a solid digital strategy, you can reach more citizens and create a frictionless or low-friction experience while building trust and credibility for your state or organization.
As the chief digital officer with the State of Georgia, Nikhil Deshpande leads Digital Services Georgia under the Georgia Technology Authority.