Originally published: January 20, 2010
Last updated: November 29, 2010 - 11:32am
President Obama hosted a Forum on Modernizing Government at the White House last week. More than 50 private-sector leaders shared business best practices and other ideas for leveraging technology to streamline federal operations, improve customer service, and save money.
The best practices discussed are included below. OSTP invites you to reflect on these ideas and respond to the OSTP blog with specific examples from the private sector in which these concepts have worked well. What tactics would you use to implement some of these ideas within the federal government? How else have you seen technology used to streamline operations and better meet customer needs?
I. Improving Customer Service: Best practices for measuring customer satisfaction and improving the ways in which the government delivers services to the American people.
1.Walk the Customer's Journey: Each agency should understand how its work affects the customers it serves by, for example: placing calls into call centers as customers; having agency leaders make clear to employees how their job contributes to overall customer service and offer to take customer service calls directly; having managers consistently signal that they pay attention to customer feedback.
2.Publish Customer Service Performance: Agencies that provide service directly to citizens should use transparency to create a culture of service, both by committing to better service publicly and by sharing customer feedback openly to boost accountability.
3.Offer Customers Choice of In-line, Online, or Phone: Agencies should serve customers via the channels they prefer. If the agency wants customers to use self-service (e.g., submitting a claim online), it must make self-service the easiest way for customers to transact.
4.Collect Comprehensive Customer Feedback: Agencies should collect customer feedback in free-form responses, not only numerical rankings, in order to collect actionable input.
5.Create Consistent Service Standards: Agencies should focus on improving the whole customer experience, not just each part. They should create consistent service standards across channels (e.g., you should get the same answer on the phone that you get online or in person).
6.Analyze Customer Suggestions for Actionable Feedback: Even when a customer suggestion is too difficult to implement, find out why the customer is giving you a piece of feedback. Even if an agency can't act on the specific suggestion, managers are likely to be able to address the underlying motivation.
7.Empower Frontline Workers to Resolve Complaints: Government customer-service staff should be empowered to make decisions to resolve customer's problems quickly.
8.Streamline Communications to Address Customer Needs: Agencies should only spend money on things that truly improve the customer experience, and they should stop investing in things that customers don't care about (e.g., brochures that contain mostly known information).
9.Build Customer Self-Service Communities: The Federal government should use technology to empower customers to answer each other's questions (e.g., discussion boards). With proper guidance, they are likely to do this very well and at lower costs.
II. Streamlining Operations: Best practices for managing long-term business transformation and IT projects.
1.Reengineer Business Processes Before Deploying Technology: Federal managers should only begin technology projects if the underlying business processes have been evaluated and streamlined first.
2.Demonstrate Senior Leadership Commitment to Project: Senior management must continue to monitor progress through a project's lifecycle. If the Secretary and Deputy Secretary start every meeting by asking about a project, that gets noticed.
3.Pursue Bold Results: Secretaries and Deputy Secretaries must set bold goals and communicate that the status quo is not acceptable. Modest goals encourage incremental thinking; if a claim takes three months to process, agency leadership should encourage staff to figure out a way to process a claim in 3 hours.
4.Govern IT Projects in a Transparent Manner: Agencies must measure their progress against defined metrics and share those results with the public.
5.Establish Cross-Function "SWAT" Teams: Agencies should create small, focused teams with people from different functional areas to address critical problems; small groups often can break bottlenecks and get better results than larger group efforts.
6.Dedicate and Reward Top Performing Staff to Complex IT Projects: Agencies should put their best performing people on important projects and allow them to dedicate 100% of their time. That means freeing them up from their day-to- day activities. At the same time, agencies should not isolate employees working on long-term project efforts, but rather ensure project teams are well-integrated into the actual business.
III. Maximizing Technology Return on Investment: Best practices for prioritizing technology investments and managing the overall technology budget to deliver results.
1.Demonstrate Need Before Investment: Before making a new technology investment, agencies must be able to articulate a clear purpose and show that end-user needs are properly aligned to the purpose.
2."Right-size" IT Projects for Results: The federal government should generally not begin any technology project with a timeline longer than 12-18 months. If a project takes longer to complete, ROI decreases and obsolescence becomes an issue. Larger projects should be broken into smaller chunks.
3.Deliver Customer Benefits at Each Project Milestone: Federal government IT projects should have well-defined and periodic milestones and each milestone must have a customer benefit. If no customer benefit can be achieved in a year, do not do the project.
4.Minimize Software Customization: The federal government should make greater use of off-the-shelf technology solutions rather than defaulting to costly, customized ones.
5.Standardize IT Across the Enterprise: Federal managers must work within their agencies and across agencies on technology standardization (eg., software, data centers). This focus must come from agency leadership since functional teams and business units often do not want it.
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- Establish a National Broadband Clearinghouse to promote best practices and information sharing
- How IT is Driving the Self-Service Economy
- Establish an Accessibility and Innovation Forum
- Improve the delivery of means-tested benefits to low-income Americans.
- Create a Broadband Strategy Council to coordinate the implementation of National Broadband Plan recommendations
- Bringing Broadband to People with Low Incomes
- Improve the delivery of government services online
- Optimizing EHRs through self-service
- Introducing: Project Open Data
- Agencies to Get Customer Service Grades
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