4 steps to funding your digital service - a government guide
Photo credit: StudyClerk
Let’s talk about funding.
Just two months ago, NSW Minister for Customer Service, Victor Dominello, sent a very clear message to government department heads: “If you want money… show me that you understand your customers’ needs... I want to see working prototypes of services, not big business cases”. At a time when the private sector (in particular, retail and banking) is going all in on customer experience (CX) spending, many government departments are facing increased pressure to deliver online services but are also experiencing greater scrutiny over digital investment.
But it’s not all gloom and doom. In fact, when it comes to asking for money, the timing has never been better. Along with bold statements such as Dominello’s, the Australian government has set ambitious goals for prioritising the digital citizen experience, including making all government services available digitally within the next 6 years and maintaining Australia’s position as one of the top 3 digital governments in the world by 2025.
Based on advice from a range of industry experts, here are our four steps to tackling the dollar-shaped elephant in the room.
1. Start with the customer problem
This is the golden rule. According to Richard Palmer, practice leader at Ovum, putting the customer need at the heart of any funding request is paramount. “People want to interact with government, not a department. They want help and support with life events, not a service”. It will also be important for government departments to focus on interactions, not transactions; “Re-think your service based on how your citizens want to interact with you, rather than on how your internal processes are structured” urges Bilal Javed, Market Insights Manager, Squiz.
For Nick Condon, Head of Digital Citizen Services for sa.gov.au, the first step to understanding your customers’ problems is to understand who they are – then to design your services and experience around them. “Our own research revealed that the people who are using our services are also those most in need of an accessible, intuitive and simple experience – such as elderly, disabled and low-income citizens”.
2. Set up an agile process
It’s fair to say that, in previous years, IT projects have built a bad reputation; on average, 45% run over budget, 7% run over schedule and 56% deliver less value than predicted. The solution? Agile.
When Elizabeth Walter, program director for Digital Procurement Transformation, and her team were ‘MoGged’ (a reference to ‘Machinery of Government’ changes), they were set the challenge of launching a new government procurement gateway, buy.nsw, in just 8 weeks. “When we first had a project cost assessment, reports suggested it would come in at around $100 million”, revealed Walter. “That’s simply too much to ask for, so instead we broke it down into manageable, smaller work sprints”.
By using an agile methodology, Walter and her team, working closely with digital experience platform (DXP) provider, Squiz, were able to prioritise citizen pain points and stay focused on what needed to be solved now, rather than over-engineering each phase and presenting ministers with expensive business cases. “Agile is hands-on, innovative and inherently focused on CX. By delivering work quickly, we had great momentum and an immediate feedback loop, so I could explain and, more importantly, show what we were achieving and how funding would be solving problems”, explains Walter.
3. Set efficiency as a key goal
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘work smarter, not harder’, but when it comes to requesting funding for a digital project, being able to identify immediate, future and shared efficiencies are your secret weapon.
A simple method of demonstrating efficiency is to avoid reinventing the wheel. Project teams often assume they can’t replicate sites as their customer needs are unique; but they’re more common than we think. A prime example of this efficiency is from the UK government, which made use of existing government design templates to spin up a new website for the Department for Exiting the European Union within a few weeks of the Brexit vote.
4. Prove a return on value – for both citizens and government
Last, but not least, is the need to show how all of the above will lead to a clear return on investment. Uncertainty doesn’t encourage government spending and anecdotes don’t create business cases.
In another example from the UK, North Lanarkshire Council’s CIO, Peter Tolland, managed to secure funding for a citizen portal at a time when the government was aiming to make a 9% cut in spending. The secret? Tolland calculated the costs of the 700,000 calls to its contact centre and 16.5 million calls to its back office each year. Within 12 months of going live, 30% of these calls had been moved to digital and Tolland had achieved ROI – a goal he had set in his original business case. As well as improving the citizen experience, Tolland’s executives were now fully bought into a digital-first approach for future projects.
Repositioning the conversation,from dollars saved to problems solved, will not only improve your chances of securing government funding, but ensure that your project genuinely transforms the citizen experience.