6 minute read 4 Nov 2020
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How user-centered design enables government agency tech transformation

By Jeff Bristow

EY US Government and Public Sector Technology Transformation and Trusted Intelligence Leader

Digital pioneer. Father and youth sports coach. Passionate about leveraging technology to make the world a better place.

6 minute read 4 Nov 2020

Keeping the end user in mind from the inception of technology transformation projects will improve program outcomes.

In brief

  • User-centered design is a key component of technology transformations.
  • Understanding stakeholder needs will help you better align program objectives with better stakeholder outcomes.
  • Citizens are now completing applications online and they expect the same seamless experience they have using most commercial websites.

User-centered design is a key component of technology transformations. The implications of the COVID-19 pandemic have made it even more important as a focal point, and agencies have to be aware of it. As part of most transformations, agencies have to change some of their processes or systems and understanding what your users want or need to operate more efficiently must be a consideration.

Effective transformations span beyond traditional technical requirements. Take the opportunity to leverage transformational programs the right way — increasing the utility for your stakeholders and helping maximize the agency’s investment.  

Here are three suggestions for agencies undertaking transformational programs: 

  1. Focus on outcomes, not requirements
  2. Empower your end users
  3. Build your road map up front and make sure it reflects the future state your stakeholders want

Outcomes vs. requirements

When determining program success factors, it’s common for agencies to prescribe “how” things are done. Asking stakeholders how things work today often reveals requirements-constrained processes. Polling stakeholders with aspirational questions (e.g., about their most — and least — favorite parts of the process) often exposes opportunities to improve processes and create a better alignment between the transformational objectives and the stakeholders’ needs. Understanding “what” stakeholders want (and think would make their jobs easier) leads to better outcomes and helps agencies unlock the benefits of technologies employed as part of programs. Embedding this perspective into the modernization process early and consistently enables it to become muscle memory — not an afterthought. The resulting intuitiveness for the target audience will help achieve the objectives that transformations typically strive to achieve.

End-user empowerment

Citizens are now completing applications online — many for the first time — and they expect the same seamless experience they have using most commercial websites. They may not be aware of additional features for which they are eligible, and they might not go back into a system six months later to fill in a new application since they have no access to the old one. How much easier it would be if information initially provided was stored and made available when the next application is filed. What if agencies leveraged historical data to help recommend additional services that may be applicable based on the information applicants provide in their initial application? One-stop shopping would better serve citizens and offer less processing time for an agency.  

On the flip side, agency employees are dealing with unprecedented volumes and, in many cases, are unable to keep up with the demand. While some of this may be unavoidable, there typically are opportunities to make the process more intuitive — and in many cases more automated — enabling employees to operate more efficiently and better serve their stakeholders.  

In both cases, understanding stakeholder needs and reflecting them in your transformational road map, will help you better align program objectives with better stakeholder outcomes.

Build your road map early and make certain it reflects where your stakeholders want to be

Empowering end users to influence what defines programmatic success does no good if it’s not reflected in the program goals, objectives and road map. It’s not always practical to address everyone’s needs concurrently (or quickly).

Learn more about our agency transformation framework

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The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Ernst & Young LLP or any other member firm of the global EY organization.

Summary

User-centered design should be at the heart of any tech transformation. There is no rule book or formula for success. It’s more about taking a step back and making sure that people are actually getting what they want and need and employing a user-centered design focus up front. This will help provide alignment between transformational goals and your stakeholders’ objectives, and it will help your agency better support its constituents.

About this article

By Jeff Bristow

EY US Government and Public Sector Technology Transformation and Trusted Intelligence Leader

Digital pioneer. Father and youth sports coach. Passionate about leveraging technology to make the world a better place.