A Guide to Digital Experience Management for Government


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Article ImageDigital experience management (DXM) refers to the combination of strategy, technology, and processes to provide highly engaging and satisfying digital services to customers. In the private sector, DXM is seen as a competitive differentiator that results in high customer loyalty and higher revenues. In the government sector, the DXM goals are a bit different. The desired outcomes are better service delivery, increased efficiency, and greater inclusiveness. 

However, in reality, until recently the public sector (barring a few exceptions) paid only lip service to DXM. DXM requires a relentless focus on user needs while the vast majority of government websites were inward-looking and complex to use and navigate. Thankfully, things are now slowly but surely improving. Governments across the globe are realizing that citizens expect their governments and leaders to be digitally savvy. They want the government sector to deliver high-quality digital services on par with private enterprises.

DXM can seem to be a daunting subject for government technologists. No doubt, it is a vast field, but platform thinking, user experience, and content management comprise the three cornerstones of government DXM.

A common temptation is to view government digital initiatives too simplistically and too narrowly as projects to develop websites or build mobile apps. Instead, think of them as a platform of underlying services that can be consumed (or viewed) on a website or on a mobile device, as well as embedded within other applications as needed. This requires an architecture based on interoperability and standards, but creates a strong foundation that can be repurposed to suit the interaction requirements of different digital media.

When it comes to DXM, another common tendency is to just focus on government-to-citizen (G2C) services, but the canvas is much wider. G2C is the most visible, but DXM strategy should include government-to-employee (G2E), government-to-business (G2B), and government-to-government (G2G) digital interfaces. Note that in several instances, the platform approach has the benefit of serving different stakeholders using a common foundation.

User Experience

Government digital teams are gradually getting out of the "If you build it, they will come" mindset. They're starting to give user experience the importance it deserves. They often look to the private sector for best practices but need to consider a few essential differences.

In the name of personalization, the private sector typically mines vast stores of user data from multiple online and offline data sources. Privacy considerations and data collection restrictions call for a different approach in the public sector. Instead of implicitly learning about the users from their past behavior and data, explicitly ask for user preferences and tasks they want to accomplish and use that information to personalize their experience. Consider ?leveraging multi-variate testing tools (aka A/B testing tools) and analytics as needed.

Similarly, accessibility requirements may restrict you from using certain interactive gadgets (or JavaScript libraries). Even without them, you achieve high levels of user satisfaction employing tested core usability methods such as user personas, task analysis, and alternate path flows.

Lastly, do not just offer mini-me versions of the web experience for mobile devices. Devise a mobile-specific strategy that includes mobile web and narrowly focused mobile apps as appropriate.

Content Management

The content needs can vary dramatically based on the government entity-local versus national, legislature versus executive, services (e.g., social insurance) versus regulatory (e.g., environmental), or civilian versus military. But in general, digital government services are content and information-oriented rather than transaction-oriented (as in the private sector). In other words, the primary objective is typically to provide the relevant and timely information to different stakeholders, and there are several factors to consider in developing a content management strategy and selecting the best-fit technology.

The volume of content is quite high and needs regular updating. In such a scenario, the content creator experience cannot be ignored. Content creators (i.e., government employees) need to have the right set of tools that are intuitive, and the authoring process has to be painless.  There are (often mandatory) requirements for multilingual content and content localization (e.g., the European Union). This calls for a complex parallelization of workflows for content translations. 

To improve the content-consumer (i.e., citizen) experience, the tools also need to have good search functionality and support a scalable information architecture. A common frustration is the display of out-?dated content (e.g., older versions of documents) in search results. Old content co-exists with newer content because of content retention requirements. To mitigate, you need functionality such as soft delete, automated content expiry, and intelligent archival.

In short, government content management requirements can be quite complex and diverse. Much thought has to go into the content management strategy and enabling technology.

Conclusion

Getting DXM right is often the difference between the  success and failure of IT initiatives. Considering the huge sums spent on IT by governments, the stakes are quite high. The U.S. federal government alone spends nearly $50 billion on civilian IT projects each year, and bad DXM is simply value leakage. 

Thankfully, the arc of DXM is starting to bend toward betterment. To stay on course, approach DXM with a platforms mindset, understand content management complexity, and don't take your eyes off of user experience.    


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