The Retrofuturist Chronicles: Watered Down

Shifting government’s focus to the service experience

The universal experience of a vending machine rejecting Miranda’s money is the catalyst for Aunt Natalie’s recollections in episode 6. While the story of her time helping the island nation called Morologia automate the delivery of government services is a little suspect, it highlights how the governments of today must continually innovate to keep pace with the changing expectations and demands of their constituents.

Putting the citizen at the center

Even Aunt Natalie concedes that the automat model of service delivery isn’t up to the challenges that 21st-century governments face. But innovative governments and agencies are seeking to use today’s advanced technologies to provide more personalized self-service options for citizens. In other words, they’re adopting citizen-centric service models that are similar to the customer-centric orientation of their private-sector counterparts.

Governments have the opportunity to employ intelligent technologies with conversational UIs and natural language processing to enable constituents to help themselves in completing many tasks. And by freeing their staff from those highly repetitive clerical tasks, governments can redeploy their workforce toward higher value activities and more complex service scenarios that require hands-on attention.

However, creating a citizen-centric approach to service delivery goes beyond optimizing standalone services. Agencies will become service orchestrators and information brokers and will deliver end-to-end customer journeys across departments. They’ll begin to approach the entire service experience holistically and seek to provide the consistency and personalization that are hallmarks of retail customer experiences—creating a more proactive model where they can anticipate service needs.

Using data as an asset

Automating the service experience generates significant data that governments can use to better understand constituent needs, why they request services when they do, and their satisfaction with the particular agency. By combining this data with the operational data sources, governments can develop baseline metrics for service delivery and process efficiency that allows them to target specific areas for improvement.

With the insight gained, managers can also empower frontline teams to spend more time doing what they do best – serving the public. In turn, this helps drive greater public engagement and higher constituent satisfaction as individual citizens experience a more responsive and professional government with each interaction. They see that their tax dollars don’t fund an inefficient bureaucracy but an organization committed to continually improving service delivery and making the smartest use of resources.

As with private-sector enterprises, individual agencies must recognize that they are part of a larger whole. This involves breaking down the data and operational silos that keep agencies from collaborating effectively on a holistic constituent experience. By creating the “single source of truth” that can help drive cross-agency collaboration, governments can create the seamless experiences that the public increasingly demands.

Reimagining processes

Simply porting existing processes to online self-service equivalents isn’t enough. Governments must also reinvent the processes behind the scenes—removing the red tape and complexity that can hamper service delivery and compromise the constituent experience. In addition to modernizing the outdated, inflexible legacy systems that support these processes, governments must adopt other cutting-edge capabilities such as AI, machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), and advanced analytics to help them understand current workflows, identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies, and drive the needed improvements. By gathering data from multiple sources and using advanced analytics to mine that data for insights, governments can intelligently deliver the right services to the right people at the right time—at a lower cost. Most importantly, though, citizens and their needs will help define how the government does business and create a more flexible and adaptable organization designed around the service experience.

Ultimately, governments must become more intelligent. They must capitalize on the tools that allow them to understand the public’s needs, anticipate their requests, and deliver the service experiences that taxpayers increasingly expect. For more on how SAP can help you transform your agency into an intelligent enterprise, go to You can also complete our self-assessment to see where you stand today and where you need to go tomorrow to become an intelligent enterprise.

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