Adobe held its third annual Digital Government Assembly on Thursday at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier in Ottawa.
Speakers included Dan Pontefract, chief envisioner at Telus; Greg Stanway, manager of customer strategy and products at BC Hydro; Samantha Liscio, managing director at Accenture; and Arun Anantharaman, senior vice president of technology at Adobe.
The key theme of the event was the pressing need for the public sector to catch up with the private sector in the delivery of digital services.
“Content and the way we engage with it has changed,” said Shawn Cruise, VP of Public Sector for Adobe, in his welcome address. “It has changed because the boundaries of how content is created and delivered has changed. And the speed at which it is changing is such that, if we don’t catch up in the public sector, the mountain will be difficult to climb.”
Pontefract’s talk focused on the need for more collaboration between government agencies and departments. Disengagement, he stressed, is a major business issue that many organizations overlook or dismiss entirely, to their own detriment.
“According to Gallup, 20 percent of employees are actively disengaged,” he said. “Sixty percent are ‘meh.’ Only 30 percent are engaged. This has not changed over the past 12 years. How does this affect the end customer, be it a citizen or an employee of your organization? This creates roughly a loss of $450-550 billion annually. One disengaged employee equals a loss of $10,000 in profit annually.”
Pontefract talked about his own organization, Telus, which has gradually improved its employee engagement over the past few years. In 2007, its employee engagement number was sitting at 53 percent. The company decided to undertake a major cultural overhaul in the workplace, encouraging collaboration, communication, and pervasive learning.
He also emphasized that though almost all government employees feel that digital government is needed, most feel that there is a lack of resources and strategy to make that shift.
Stanway followed up with a presentation on the need for governments to come up with a comprehensive and proactive business strategy, even when there isn’t much incentive to provide the best service possible.
“Public sector provides essential services, and there isn’t a lot of competition,” said Stanway. “Without competition, it’s tempting to do the bare minimum. This attitude should be challenged. Doing business well is important because it makes fiscal sense, not necessarily because you want to provide stellar customer service.”
He pointed to his own organization, BC Hydro, as an example of how to do customer service right. Over the years, BC Hydro has gradually improved its website to make it more customer-friendly. All the information the customer needs can be found on the website, and everything they might wish to do, such as pay their bills or look at their usage history, can be carried out through a single login portal.
BC Hydro is also looking at how it can use mobile to provide better service to its customers. It plans to roll out a text messaging service in the near future that will send texts to customers when their power goes out, informing them of when they expect the power to come back on and providing a link to a free flashlight app download.
“Users of public services compare you to other businesses they interact with – not to other public service providers,” said Stanway. “Look at what service experience your user base is getting elsewhere, and where you stack up within that. There is no reason or excuse to say you’re not going to be part of that leading group because you’re public.”
Liscio followed up Stanway’s presentation with a talk about the various technologies that governments can make use of in delivering digital services to citizens. Those technologies include big data, analytics, and mobility – and Liscio says they must be combined to provide citizens with a retail-like experience rather than a government experience.
“Governments at all levels in Canada have been good about moving to digital, but citizens still want more,” she said. “Over half of Canadians want a single portal for dealing with the government. When Service Ontario took the driver’s licence registration process and put it online, it became a 26-page form. This is not digitalization; it’s not accessible. It’s just taking a paper process and slapping it online. This will disengage the people you want to engage.”
Liscio argued that governments must start to deliver services to citizens that they didn’t even know they wanted. To do this, governments must harness the power of data. With data, governments can personalize services for each and every customer. With data, governments can work together to bundle services and pull together the fragmented service delivery landscape across the country. And with data, they can encourage engagement amongst their constituents.
“True engagement isn’t a broadcast message from the government to the citizen,” said Liscio. “True engagement is when you’re ready and willing to hear feedback from the citizen. There has to be a two-way dialogue about needs and expectations.”
Anantharaman tied those messages into Adobe’s efforts to encourage organizations to think about content creation for an increasingly mobile world. He noted that app usage is now almost on par with TV consumption, and understanding how to make, manage, mobilize and measure the effectiveness of content will ensure much greater citizen satisfaction with government services.