To better serve the American public, start by building a strong core

To better serve the American public, start by building a strong core
Mar 8, 2023
In our efforts to improve the design and delivery of citizen-facing experiences, it’s essential that we also upgrade the employee experience using human-centered design and product management best practices.

“Every interaction between the Government and the public is an opportunity to deliver the value and competency Americans expect and deserve.”

President’s Management Agenda

The delightful and effortless digital experiences that we’ve grown accustomed to in our personal lives have raised the bar for what we expect from our public sector interactions. In an age of dramatic challenges ranging from pandemic impacts and opioid addiction to climate change and economic obstacles, Americans are short on time, patience, and resources—and eager for the federal government to deliver essential services more efficiently.

The government is responding to these demands with a chorus of customer experience transformation mandates, as evidenced by the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA), the President’s Management Agenda, and Executive Orders such as EO 280. Taken together, these directives serve as a clear top-down order for federal agencies to modernize their delivery of digital services with the goal of transforming the customer experience.

In addition to improving service delivery to the American public, agencies are taking a good look at the employee experience—seeking out ways to modernize, streamline, and optimize the way work gets done internally. To make a fitness analogy, this focus on modernizing the federal employee experience is akin to strengthening your core to prevent injuries and boost athletic performance.

This dual employee-and-citizen modernization focus tracks with the federal government’s priorities: As strengthening and empowering the federal workforce and delivering excellent, equitable, and secure federal services and customer experience comprise two of the three priorities on the President’s Management Agenda, it’s evident that a holistic approach to modernization that considers both behind-the-scenes and citizen-facing experiences is essential to success.

“Ensuring a Government that delivers for all demands a focus on those who keep our Government running and deliver services each day.”

President’s Management Agenda

And by and large, federal employees are on board. In our most recent digital modernization survey, 91% of federal IT workers shared that their agencies have gained ground on digital modernization efforts in the past year, and they recognize many benefits of modernization—from increased security and reliability to improved innovation, collaboration, usability, and service delivery to the public.

It may seem like a good news story all around, but not so fast: We also know that digital modernization efforts fail when we forget to put the human user at the center of the transformation. As it turns out, the “people” element of transformation often gets overlooked, and because people, not systems, ultimately drive outcomes, this oversight can tank even the most technology-forward modernization effort and lead to a wary workforce that’s skeptical of the next new solution or change to the status quo.

To modernize effectively, it’s imperative to let the human—whether customer or employee—you're serving lead the way.

Supercharged mission impact starts with a strong human-centered foundation.

Just as a good personal trainer will start with a consultation to learn about your goals, pain points, and preferences, an effective digital modernization partner will start by asking questions and learning about a system’s users. This foundational research, grounded in human-centered design principles, will help ensure that you’re building the right solution to address the human need at the center of the modernization initiative.

But user experience (UX) research is not a one-and-done approach. In our digital modernization work for federal clients, we build cross-functional teams of domain and tech experts and push to bring UX expertise inside the product team to ensure fierce user advocacy throughout the full development lifecycle. Borrowed from the private sector and adapted for the government context, this product management approach is key to designing excellent digital experiences for your system’s users and slots neatly into established agile development processes—so you can accelerate and improve digital delivery while baking a user-centered mindset into the process.

One example of a successful human-centered design approach to digital modernization comes from our work with the Department of Commerce (DOC). To modernize a DOC legacy case management solution, we started by conducting extensive user research, seeking input from multiple bureaus and offices at the agency. These user insights drove our decisions and the modernized solution—a centralized, online platform that leverages ServiceNow’s Customer Service Management module—streamlines workflows and cut record processing time by 86%. Digital modernization success stories like this one are a fantastic way to build enthusiasm and buy-in from employees while making a meaningful improvement to their day-to-day work lives.

By pairing powerful low-code platforms such as ServiceNow with the latest agile delivery practices borrowed from the private sector—and basing modernization decisions on human needs—agencies can transform service delivery while boosting employee efficiency and overall job satisfaction. That’s what building a strong core is all about.

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Meet the authors
  1. Tahera Zamanzada, Vice President, Digital Transformation

    Digital transformation and cloud executive View bio

  2. Annalisa Aldana, Customer Insights Specialist

    Annalisa has over 20 years of design experience with a focus on human-centered design and user experience, helping public and private sector clients optimize their digital transformation.

Discover how we drive IT modernization for federal agencies.