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Federal Agencies See Benefits of Digital Tools But Still Have Concerns: Accenture

By Rob Starr, Content Manager

According to survey research conducted by  Accenture Federal Services and Government Business Council, federal agencies report positive outcomes from digital services, but remain concerned over budget constraints and implementation costs. Chris Zinner, who leads Accenture’s digital work with federal agencies, supplied some answers to our questions recently.

What was the impetus for Delivering on Digital Government?

With the launch of the Digital Services Playbook coming up on a year, Accenture wanted to understand to how broadly Digital Service and Tools were being embraced across the federal community and to what extent they were delivering outcomes to the agencies in a way that showed positive Return on Investment (ROI).   Our hypothesis was that agencies were increasingly implementing – or planning to implement – digital services, but likely were not fully realizing the value of such services & tools, from either the perspective of increased customer satisfaction, reduced cost to service, or the inherent ability of such digital services to accelerate the benefit realization given a fundamental new way of building and launching such services that is aligned with the Digital Services Playbook.

  What are the issues surrounding digital adoption?

One of the key insights from the report was that there is still a pervasive perception that digital services – although they have the potential to drive increased organizational efficiency by deflecting expensive, agent assisted customer service interactions to lower-cost, online self-service channels – are still perceived as expensive and complex to implement.  Our analysis showed that this perception is likely driven by lack of recognition of the fundamental shift that agencies should embrace in the way they develop and launch digital services and tools.  In today’s world where we are conditioned to get regular updates to apps on our mobile phones, consumers don’t expect full functionality to be available in version 1 of any digital service.  We understand that we will get regular updates, to fix bugs and add new features.  We still see value in version 1 – the “Minimally Viable Product (MVP)” – even with its shortcomings, and would rather not wait until the service is perfect – with full features and nearly bug free –before being able to use it.  So is true with citizen services.  Agencies can embrace user-centered design and agile delivery to push out digital services as soon as they can add value to the citizen or to the agency, much more quickly and with less resources than the traditional “big bang”, waterfall based development approach where upfront costs are much higher and the launch – and its associated benefits – are much delayed.  Agencies can not only benefit from the inherent value of digital services, but if they adapt the way the develop and launch such services, they can change the “cost equation” and overcome the perception of digital services being just as expensive as traditional services and tools to deliver.

Chris Zinner

Chris Zinner

    What digital tools are most prevalent and why?   

For external, customer facing services, the tools that were most widely used were public websites, online knowledge bases, and social media.  However, when asked about the effectiveness of digital tools, agencies indicated – even though they are not widely used by agencies today – that mobile apps, online virtual agents, online web chat, and customer relationship management (CRM) platforms were most effective to engage their customers and/or deliver customer services.

For internal, employee facing collaboration tools, agencies reported the live collaboration tools (SharePoint, Google Docs, etc.), internal employee chat/instant messaging, and internal knowledge base/FAQs as the most widely used.  However, when asked about the effectiveness of digital tools, no single type of tool stood out as especially effective in helping agencies drive internal collaboration or employee engagement.  Our analysis of this data, when correlated with our client experience indicates that there is significant opportunity still to deliver next generation digital collaboration and knowledge management tools to help transform the way that agency employees work with one another and share knowledge to drive mission effectiveness and customer service delivery.

  What are the other bigger takeaways from the report?

See answer to #2.  The biggest issue, its root cause, and the recommended approach are the biggest takeaways from the report.

  What’s in the future?   

This research, combined with recent Accenture Federal Services research on collaborative, cross-agency delivering of customer services, sets the foundation for our next phase of research.  We want to look at the opportunities for specific capabilities (tools, best practices, and playbooks) that – if created – could serve as shared services for agencies to leverage to drive increased customer satisfaction, lower cost to serve, and a more consistent, customer-centric experience for citizens across the federal government.  We aim to inspire agencies to work together, learning from one another and co-investing, to transform the way the government serves the public.


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