State and local government agencies face a variety of challenges as they seek to improve their digital experience for constituents and maximize return on investment in their web operations. Among those challenges are content sprawl and inadequate self-service. This article will discuss steps that government entities can take to resolve these problems cost-effectively.
Optimizing Content Development
The idea that "content is king" isn't new, but many government entities haven't taken it to heart. Poorly organized content abounds on government websites, and it deters citizens from using these sites. Many people opt instead to place phone calls, send emails, write letters, or personally visit government offices, driving up administrative costs and distracting staff from other tasks.
As agencies consider modernizing their websites, they have an opportunity to optimize content and make certain it truly meets customer needs. This requires the establishment of processes that will ensure future content is relevant and current. It also requires the designation and training of specific employees who will be responsible for managing content.
Many government entities today rely on a single person, usually a webmaster, to update and publish content for all employees and units across the organization. Although webmasters may have training in HTML and other technical matters, they don't necessarily have a background in communications or content. And because webmasters are typically overworked, their priorities may not match those of a particular department or group within the organization. It might take days or weeks for content to be published.
We recommend that government entities transition from the webmaster model to one in which designated and appropriately trained employees own the content on their own pages or their groups' pages and can change or update copy, submit it for approval, and make it public within hours or days, not weeks.
Government entities typically rely on an eclectic mix of back-end systems, some of which were designed to interface with modern websites and some of which predate these. Self-service functionality - for example, online bill payment or interactive records retrieval - typically requires integration of these back-end systems with the website.
When integrations are seamless, bounce rates decline, more transactions are completed successfully, and both customer satisfaction and ROI increase. When integrations are not seamless, customers conducting self-service transactions recognize it immediately and website usage drops off.
The private sector has made tremendous strides in enabling and enhancing customer self-service. Citizens expect the public sector to keep pace. But given the budgetary limitations that state and local governments face, it is seldom possible to ensure that every transaction is entirely seamless. The good news is that it is seldom necessary. The key is to prioritize.
We recommend that, before integration efforts get under way, government entities determine which online transactions are the highest priorities for their constituents and then invest in seamless integrations and processes for these. If only 20 citizens per year perform a given transaction, then seamlessness is not as critical for that transaction as it is for one performed by thousands of citizens each year.
For all citizen-facing systems, undertake a range of enterprise architecture activities to facilitate seamless integration among systems. This includes selecting third-party products and defining architectures that streamline the data-sharing process as well as high-priority transactions that touch multiple systems.
CapTech has recently published a white paper, "Creating a Modern Web Presence: Challenges and Solutions for State and Local Governments," which highlights the key issues that governments face as they seek to interact more effectively with constituents in an increasingly digital world. The white paper suggests pragmatic steps governments can take in addressing these challenges to modernize their web presence cost-effectively. Click here to view the full white paper.