This post was originally published on the 18F blog. At 18F, we have employees across the U.S. Over time, we’ve cultivated our best practices for distributed teams and design methods. Yet, doing research as a remote team is still really hard. Here are some things that we’ve found make it easier. Six icons showing different types of video conferencing. Use tools like you would in real life Being a remote team doesn’t mean you should forgo any of your research rituals.
This post was originally published on the 18F blog. It is the first in a series that will share effective and efficient ways to manage software development, even if one doesn’t have a background in software engineering. As custom software development becomes integral to accomplishing any program’s mission, many managers in government find themselves faced with handling the unfamiliar: overseeing the design and implementation of a digital product that is functional, user-friendly, and necessary for realizing your program’s mission.
A Washington, D.C. think tank recently released reports advocating using artificial intelligence (AI) tools to reorganize the federal government. There has been a larger debate about the effects of automation on the private sector and the American economy, but this appears to be one of the few reports focusing on the federal government. According to the think tank, the U.S. government “could yield $23.9 billion in reduced personnel costs and a reduction in the size of the federal workforce by 288,000.
Ask most government employees their Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® and they can rattle off their results. But if you ask a government employee about their conflict style, it’s much less likely they can talk about their tendencies and predilections around tension. Conflict is inevitable in the workplace, but is conflict something your product team proactively talks about? Building empathy towards users is always a part of the UX process, but it’s not always common practice to build empathy towards our teammates.
Learning—and practicing—five imperatives of network leadership can help agencies improve their odds for successful digital transformation. Many organizations are undergoing digital transformation because the organizations see that it is necessary for long-term survival. However, digitally reinventing the organization is “one of the hardest journeys to make.” According to industry experts, two-thirds of organizations will fail at digital transformation. With these dismal odds, what can agency leaders do to improve their agency’s chances in successfully digitally transforming?
Joel Minton, a member of the U.S. Digital Service, is working with GSA’s Technology Transformation Service as the director of login.gov. Tom Mills is the Chief Technology Architect at U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In early April, the U.S. Digital Service and 18F launched login.gov, a single sign-on solution for government websites that will enable citizens to access public services across agencies with the same username and password. Login.gov is currently in action at the U.
Categorizing and Describing Cybersecurity Work for the Nation The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) is pleased to announce the release of Special Publication 800-181, the NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework. This publication serves as a fundamental reference to support a workforce capable of meeting an organization’s cybersecurity needs. It provides organizations with a common, consistent lexicon that categorizes and describes cybersecurity work by Category, Specialty Area, and Work Role. It is a resource from which organizations or sectors can develop additional publications or tools that meet their needs to define or provide guidance on different aspects of workforce development, planning, training, and education.
Whenever I hear someone complain about the process of a design critique, I’m always a bit surprised. Blame it on the fact that I’m a design school graduate, where critique is a mandatory part of the educational experience. I consider learning to give and receive feedback as one of the most relevant and useful pieces of my education. But translating the rules and reasons for critique from a classroom to the workplace can take a bit of practice.
Since 2007, a major consulting firm has conducted an annual survey on organizations’ “Digital IQ.” In the ten years of organizations grappling with digital transformation, what has been learned? From the report: Focus on the human experience [emphasis in the original]: Rethink how you define and deliver digital initiatives, consider employee and customer interactions at every step of the way, invest in creating a culture of tech innovation and adoption, and much more.
In the last national election, the earliest born members of Generation Z voted for the first time. In 2019, the American workforce will see the influx of tens of millions of Gen Zers who, according to some researchers, will be a stark contrast to the Millennials that will make the largest part of the 2020 workforce. According to one researcher’s study of Gen Z, this generational group has seven distinguishing traits:
If you’re considering “going agile,” one of the critical components of such a transformation will be adopting team structures. In your current, pre-teaming state, your developers are probably working by themselves, and may be engaging directly with stakeholders. Agile will place your developers into teams. Teaming is important, as it will enable your development staff to actively learn from one another, improving the quality of their individual and collective work, and improving the work environment.
This week we’re excited to celebrate FedRAMP’s fifth birthday! The program has come a long way over the past five years, as we have been able to grow and transform the program to continue meeting our partners’ evolving needs. FedRAMP achieved initial operational capability in 2012. We launched FedRAMP.gov that year as our primary communication and outreach channel. Since then, we have continued to iterate based on the voice of the customer and have expanded our outreach to include such activities as training, weekly tips, a user-centered marketplace and dashboard, and the Focus on FedRAMP blog.
In today’s digital world, it’s imperative that government agencies safeguard citizens’ physical and electronic security. In the world of Federal IT, adopting and advancing cybersecurity can’t be accomplished in one day, or by one agency. Federal agencies must work together to tackle complex problems and stay ahead of evolving network threats. The Federal Identity, Credential, and Access Management (FICAM) team helps agencies enable the right individual to access the right resource, at the right time, for the right reason.
Like any newer technology, cloud computing has faced adoption challenges. IT managers understand the huge potential efficiency improvements and savings that cloud computing can bring to their agencies, but also have questions about security, compatibility, and funding. With these concerns and without a clear path to cloud computing, many agencies continue to maintain on-premises solutions. However, the costs of legacy systems are expensive, and this is a particularly important issue in a budget-constrained environment.
It’s been a while since I’ve checked in on enterprise architecture (EA). My last in-depth work with EA was around 2011 when I was on detail to the Office of Personnel Management’s Open Government Team. The EA model I worked with was the top-down organizational design of information technology assets, data assets, and business processes. Many of you are probably familiar with this traditional EA model. Six years later, it is predicted that in 2018 that “half of enterprise architecture (EA) business architecture initiatives will focus on defining and enabling digital business platform strategies.
“Hey, Computer, how do I access my public services?” Citizens will soon be able to ask their Intelligent Personal Assistants (IPA) this question through an Emerging Citizen Technology open-sourced pilot program. The purpose of the initiative is to guide dozens of federal programs make public service information available through automated, self-service platforms for the home and office such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana and Facebook Messenger. Last week, participants from more than a dozen federal agencies, both in D.
If you’re a program manager or a federal web developer you’ve probably been given a seemingly simple task: Create a basic website as part of a new initiative at your agency. The hardest part is often not crafting the content or designing the prototype, but getting the security and privacy compliance in order to launch and maintain the actual website’s compliance status. For that work, you might have to hire a contractor or put extra strain on your agency’s web team.
18F Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Karim Said of NASA. Karim was instrumental in NASA’s successful HTTPS and HSTS migration, and we’re happy to help Karim share the lessons NASA learned from that process. In 2015, the White House Office of Management and Budget released M-15-13, a “Policy to Require Secure Connections across Federal Websites and Web Services”. The memorandum emphasizes the importance of protecting the privacy and security of the public’s browsing activities on the web, and sets a goal to bring all federal websites and services to a consistent standard of enforcing HTTPS and HSTS.
We wanted to share some high-level guidance for CSPs and 3PAOs we created with the JAB teams to provide insight into the different roles and responsibilities for 3PAOs and CSPs in our authorization process. These roles and responsibilities were created and refined over the last year as we refined the JAB’s authorization process through FedRAMP Accelerated. The CSP’s role (189 kb PDF, 1 page) in the JAB authorization process is to ensure their service offering meets the NIST/FedRAMP requirements through the implementation and documentation of security controls.
On May 9, we took a big step toward creating a bug bounty program for our agency by issuing an award to HackerOne for a Software-as-a-Service bug-reporting platform. The TTS Bug Bounty will be a security initiative to pay people for identifying bugs and security holes in software operated by the General Service Administration’s Technology Transformation Service (TTS), which includes 18F. This will be the first public bug bounty program run by a civilian agency, and follows in the footsteps of the Hack the Pentagon and Hack the Army bug bounty programs run by the Department of Defense.
In March, the team of writers and editors at USAGov adopted some agile principles in an attempt to streamline our content development process. We hoped operating in a more agile manner would help us address some of the challenges we were facing as a team: Being asked to support many new projects Competing priorities Bottlenecks and silos It was a big change in the way we work. Our previous model had been based on a newsroom-style operation where people were clustered together around specific areas of content or “beats” to use the journalism terminology.
I recently met with more than 50 representatives from the top IT services companies and talked about the good and the bad in federal acquisition. Some of the discussion was surprising … some not so much. The key takeaways include some changes that are fairly simple for government to implement, yet have big impacts. 1. Government acquisition and program personnel need to be more accessible and increase communications regarding requirements and procurement timelines.
Recently a segment on my favorite morning news program stopped me in my tracks. The young and attractive hosts (why are they always so young and attractive?) were demonstrating new appliances including a smart refrigerator. The fridge was equipped with all kinds of high-tech features including touch screen displays, a camera inside that allows you to see the contents and Wi-Fi connectivity. You can see inside your fridge while grocery shopping, how convenient!
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has submitted a report to Congress that details current and emerging threats to the Federal government’s use of mobile devices and recommends security improvements to the mobile device ecosystem. The DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) led the study in coordination with the National Institute of Standards and Technology and its National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence. Mandated by the Cybersecurity Act of 2015, the “Study on Mobile Device Security” relied on significant input from mobile industry vendors, carriers, service providers and academic researchers.
This post was originally published on the U.S. Department of Justice Blog. The Office of Information Policy (OIP) is pleased to announce two new topics and dates for our Best Practices Workshop series as we continue this initiative this summer. OIP launched the Best Practices Workshop series in 2014 as a way to share and leverage successes in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) administration across the government. Each workshop in the series focuses on a specific topical area and includes a panel of representatives who share their success stories and strategies.
This post was originally published on the U.S. Department of Labor Blog. They say that life can be summed up as the process of a series of doors closing. By that, they mean that opportunities for taking different paths start to disappear as you move through life. It’s a logical sentiment, but there’s an obverse to it. When you’re young, all those doors are open. Doors as far as you can see.
Twitter is more than just a platform for sharing news and updates: it can be a tool for directly communicating with your community and understanding what is important to them. One way you can connect with your Twitter audience is by hosting a Twitter Chat. They can be a good way to discuss key topics, raise awareness, and exchange knowledge and resources between you and the community. Several HIV organizations host Twitter chats on health topics, during HIV awareness days relevant to their community, and/or during HIV/AIDS conferences.
We hope you are finding it easier to get the information you need on USDA.gov following the launch of our site redesign in March. We’ve already welcomed over 1 million visitors to the new site and we are pleased with the positive feedback we’ve received thus far. Our redesign makes it easier for you to get the news you care about quickly and get on with your busy life. Now, you can explore “USDA in Action,” an area designed to quickly share what’s happening across the department.
Spring is a beautiful time of year in Washington, D.C. The temperature warms up; the cherry blossoms are out; and we frequently have an update of Congress.gov to share. In 2015 we added treaties and web-friendly bill text, and in 2016 we expanded the quick search feature. Today there is another round of enhancements to the Library of Congress website for tracking Congressional activity. The big new item in this release is the ability to download your search results to a CSV (comma separated values) file.
The demand for more automated, self-service access to United States public services, when and where citizens need them, grows each day—and so do advances in the consumer technologies like Intelligent Personal Assistants designed to meet those challenges. The U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA) Emerging Citizen Technology program, part of the Technology Transformation Service’s Innovation Portfolio, launched an open-sourced pilot to guide dozens of federal programs to make public service information available to consumer Intelligent Personal Assistants (IPAs) for the home and office, such as Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, Google Assistant, and Facebook Messenger.
The Office of Information Policy (OIP) is pleased to announce its collaboration with GSA’s 18F team on the development of a National FOIA Portal. This is the next step in a long line of OIP initiatives working towards a National FOIA Portal going back to 2010 with the launch of FOIA.gov. Most recently, the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 required the creation of a National FOIA Portal that is interoperable with agencies’ current systems and allows the public to submit a request for records to any agency from a single website.
Effective May 15, 2017, GSA’s DotGov Domain Registration Program will begin providing HSTS Preloading services for federal agencies. HSTS stands for HTTP Strict Transport Security (or HTTPS, for short). This new service helps ensure that visitor communication with .gov websites is not modified or compromised, and hostile networks cannot inject malware, tracking beacons, or otherwise monitor or change visitor interactions online. As part of this new service, any federal government executive branch .
To folks new to government, one of the most surprising differences between our work and work in the private sector are the barriers in accessing commercially available software, and commercially available Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) in particular. There are good reasons for these barriers: the government places premiums on considerations such as security, privacy, accessibility, license management, and competition. It takes great care to work within those considerations while also providing digital teams with great tools to get work done.
How do we choose color in digital design? In print, we have the Pantone fan and what you see is what you get — as long as your printer is color calibrated. With computer monitors, one does not get such precision, even within one office. So how much time and effort do you spend on color selection? What you select could be your agency or office standard for the next five, ten or one hundred years!
We’re excited to launch a complete redesign of USDA.gov featuring stronger visual storytelling components, a more modern user-experience with easy to find services and resources, and to top it off, a completely mobile-friendly design. Through careful planning, thoughtful design, and a primary focus on user experience and usability, we’ve taken the best of government and industry expertise and put it into creating our new website. This has been a year-long project, but to do this right, we wanted to make sure we tapped into every possible resource.
The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) recently published a report, Benchmarking U.S. Government Websites, that looks at the performance, security, and accessibility of the top 297 government websites. ITIF is a think tank in Washington, D.C. whose mission is to formulate, evaluate, and promote policy solutions that accelerate innovation in technology and public policy. Over the past 90 days, government websites were visited over 2.55 billion times. According to the Analytics Dashboard, 43.
You may have heard of “serverless architecture” or Amazon Web Services (AWS) Lambda product and wondered what is unique about this new buzzword. As with many new digital cloud technologies, serverless architecture could mean two things. It may be applications that are built using third-party cloud applications. Or serverless architectures could be pieces of code that live in the cloud and only run when called on by a user: event-driven functions.
The U.S. Web Design Standards are a library of design guidelines and code to help government developers quickly create trustworthy, accessible, and consistent digital government services. Last month, we announced the 1.0 release of the Standards, a milestone that signals the Standards are a stable, trustworthy resource for government designers and developers. By using the well-tested and easy-to-implement code from the Standards, developers can quickly create new websites or have a leg-up in updating existing services to have a modern, consistent feel.
Late last year, Business.USA.gov (BUSA) began transitioning its web presence to USA.gov and with its content, came its social media and email accounts. While transferring ownership of a Twitter account is fairly easy to do from a technical standpoint, transferring email ownership and tools is not. We had to tackle several things at the start of this project: Build new pages where people could sign up to get emails.
This week, I want to briefly discuss the human resources challenges in finding the new IT technology workers for the government. As agencies move toward microservices, artificial intelligence chatbots, and deep learning application programming interfaces (APIs), the demand for experts in these fields continues to grow fast. The universities and professional development programs are not churning out the talent fast enough while governments are competing with private industry for what experts are currently available.
We at DigitalGov want to hear more about you – your job, your role, the challenges you face — all of it — as you work to deliver more secure, effective, and reliable digital services for the public. We are going to start holding user-research sessions with our readers who work in the federal government. This will be a big part of how we listen to and learn about those who are providing the public with better services and what their core needs are.
The Road to Launch Version 1.0 You may have noticed a new, cleaner, and more modern look to some government websites over the last year—these are the web properties that were early adopters of the Draft U.S. Web Design Standards from 18F, the digital services agency which is part of the General Services Administration (GSA). The Standards are located at https://standards.usa.gov, with helpful links to the individual UI components, design principles, and page templates.
HTTPS is a necessary baseline for security on the modern web. Non-secure HTTP connections lack integrity protection, and can be used to attack citizens, foreign nationals, and government staff. HTTPS provides increased confidentiality, authenticity, and integrity that mitigate these attacks. In June 2015, the White House required all new federal web services to support and enforce HTTPS connections over the public internet, and for agencies to migrate existing web services to HTTPS by the end of calendar year 2016.
A key part of agile development is constantly shipping new features. The team behind the Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) beta website ships new features at least once every two weeks. Sometimes the features are big, noticeable changes, such as the new home page we recently launched. And other times they’re small (a copy edit, an adjustment to a button) or under-the-hood (changing the way a database works). With so many changes happening to the product every two weeks, it can be hard to keep track of how the product is growing and improving.
DigitalGov University (DGU), the events platform for DigitalGov, provides programming to build and accelerate digital capacity by providing webinars and in-person events highlighting innovations, case studies, tools, and resources. Thanks to your participation, DGU hosted over 90 events with 6,648 attendees from over 100 agencies across federal, tribal, state, and local governments. DGU strives to provide training throughout the year that is useful and relevant to you. One of the most resounding comments from digital managers last year was people wanted to be able to attend all of our classes virtually.
As part of USAGov’s efforts to provide our audience with the reliable and quality information that they need, this summer, the Health, Education & Benefits (HE&B) topic desk completed its first content audit. Methodology and Results Data informed every step we took. In order to determine which areas to focus on first, the desk gathered data from four distinct sources: the Contact Center’s usage of our content to answer customers’ inquiries; site analytics; content inventory and review; and website survey comments.
Every first week of every month, USAGov’s marketing team sends an office-wide email newsletter to give an update on past and current marketing efforts and campaigns. It’s how we try to help keep the rest of the office in the know. The monthly newsletter can spur a content idea, a future marketing endeavor, and act as a reminder of what’s coming up that month that contributors need to be aware of.
Guidance for Contributing Digital Content to FDsys (govinfo) is now available on FDLP.gov. Federal Information Preservation Network (FIPNet) digital imaging partners now have guidance documentation for creating and contributing digitally-imaged U.S. Government content to Federal Digital System (FDsys)/govinfo*. The guidance specifications are based on current best practices from the Federal Agency Digitization Guidelines Initiative and the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services “Minimum Digitization Capture Recommendations.” The Guidance document is provided to encourage libraries and other stakeholders to contribute digitally-imaged Federal publications to FDsys (govinfo) to increase access to legacy and historic U.
Our work can transform government The potential to transform government and impact the lives of Americans is tremendous. Our country needs the government to work well, and technology is the key to that. TECHNOLOGY IS NOT PARTISAN “If it’s important, it’s important for all administrations,” said GSA Technology Transformation Service Commissioner Rob Cook. GSA Admin @DeniseUSGSA on the future of technology in the federal government. #GSATech #InnovateGov pic.
If you were to perform research on the value proposition of training videos, you would notice that opinions are split on their efficacy. Despite all the tools that are out there that can help you evaluate video quality, views, and drop-off, there are some things that should be considered in the analysis of your organization’s videos. As a member of the Service Design practice at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), I was tasked with a research project evaluating how non-consumers interact with the CFPB in regards to complaint data.
I’m taking a break from sorting through dozens of concepts from federal agencies about how they want to use artificial intelligence and virtual reality for citizens in the coming months in order to share with you just some of these groundbreaking initiatives of tomorrow that can be explored at a DigitalGov University workshop this week. We’re launching our two new U.S. government-wide Communities — Artificial Intelligence for Citizen Services, and Virtual/Augmented Reality — with a workshop, creatively called the Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality for Federal Public Service Workshop, that brings together federal managers behind programs at more than 50 agencies with dozens of private sector teams ready to demo the technology that will drive our innovations together for years to come.
This summer I announced the the release of our new Health IT Services Special Item Number (SIN 132–56) on IT Schedule 70. Now, I am happy to report that the SIN has been awarded to 65 highly qualified industry partners — with that number continuing to grow daily as new contracts are being awarded. With such a robust supplier offering, the SIN is now very much ready to serve agencies’ health IT services requirements.
Recently, OMB released M 17-06, Policies for Federal Agency Public Websites and Digital Services, which provides agencies with requirements, standards, and best practices for federal websites and digital services. This new policy might have some of us reflecting on our websites and applications to make sure we are in compliance. This task might seem overwhelming, but the following methodology might just serve as a much needed guide. Recently, we interviewed Sara Wachter-Boettcher, author of Content Everywhere: Strategy and Structure for Future-Ready Content.
Improving the way the government delivers information technology (IT) solutions to its customers isn’t just a goal, it’s our mission. We at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office know that by publishing our open source code, the public can help us come up with new and better IT solutions. In advance of the new Federal Source Code Policy and in support of the Administration’s Open Government Initiative, we have been publishing content on GitHub for over a year, and it now includes source code for a mobile application for trademarks.
I recently interviewed Daniel Kuhns, Web Manager at FEMA, about the site widgets and the FEMA app his organization has been developing. The widgets currently available include: FEMA App, Preparedness, Severe Weather, Private Sector, Kids Fire Safety, and Are you a Disaster Survivor. The FEMA App offers many features such as weather alerts, safety reminders, shelter information and contact information. This information can be very helpful in times of an emergency, and some of it, to include the safety tips, are available offline.
This has been an exciting and successful year for Congress.gov. We accomplished a major milestone when we retired THOMAS in July. Over the course of 2016, we completed a number of enhancements to Congress.gov. In April we expanded quick search to include the Congressional Record, Committee Reports, Nominations, Treaty Documents, and Communications. In May we launched several new RSS feeds and email alerts and added saved search email alerts soon after in June.
6,000 feet deep, 18 miles wide, 5,000 people per day: The Reality of the Tribal Beat How can a place be remote and virtually unpopulated, yet constantly full of thousands of people and teeming with activity? It certainly seems impossible, but that is exactly the situation at Grand Canyon West (GCW), home of the Hualapai indigenous Indian Tribe and the famous Skywalk. Although well over an hour from the closest town, more than one million people visit each year — arriving mostly by helicopter and tour bus.
Many of our cloud service providers (CSPs), federal agencies, and third party assessment organizations (3PAOs) often share common issues and questions when going through the FedRAMP process. To help guide our stakeholders, we will be providing weekly tips and address frequently asked questions and concerns. Email us potential tips and questions that you would like published as a tip. Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) Question: Why should CSPs spend time and money developing high quality documentation when their goal is to become FedRAMP Authorized?
In August 2016, OMB released M-16-21, which seeks to ensure that new custom-developed Federal source code be made broadly available for reuse across the Federal Government. M-16-21 also requires agencies, when commissioning new custom software, to release at least 20 percent of new custom-developed code as Open Source Software (OSS) for three years, and to collect data concerning new custom software to gauge performance. This approach is consistent with the Digital Government Strategy “Shared Platform” approach, which enables federal employees to work together—both within and across agencies—to reduce costs, streamline development, apply uniform standards, and ensure consistency in creating and delivering information.
As the Federal government agencies begin the digital transformation journey, becoming a data-driven organization is even more vital. What does it mean to become a data-driven organization? According to one definition, “[a] data-driven company is an organization where every person who can use data to make better decisions, has access to the data they need when they need it.” There are many theories are on how to create a data-driven organization, but few case studies that demonstrate the actual process.
****This year, the deadline for agencies to submit their reporting of incentive prize competitions and challenges for FY16 comes earlier than most. Roughly two weeks from today, by Nov. 18, federal agencies are required to submit their accounts of every prize, competition, or challenge that launched, ran or completed in FY16 via email. Challenge.gov launched a new feature this week to support agencies in their efforts. The Annual Prize Reporting tool equips agency challenge managers with a one-click tool for downloading key data on their challenges.
Summary: Today we’re launching Code.gov so that our Nation can continue to unlock the tremendous potential of the Federal Government’s software. Over the past few years, we’ve taken unprecedented action to help Americans engage with their Government in new and meaningful ways. Using Vote.gov, citizens can now quickly navigate their state’s voter registration process through an easy-to-use site. Veterans can go to Vets.gov to discover, apply for, track and manage their benefits in one, user-friendly place.
Summary: The release of an updated National Nanotechnology Initiative Strategic Plan caps a month of activities highlighting nanotechnology. The Federal government continues to play a key role in the success of the U.S. nanotechnology enterprise through the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI)—as was evident throughout October. And one way to ensure the effort is well coordinated and well implemented is through strategic planning. Yesterday, the National Science and Technology Council released the 2016 NNI Strategic Plan, which describes the NNI vision and goals and the strategies by which these goals are to be achieved.
Summary: Take a look at how we plan to preserve and pass on the digital history of the Obama administration. President Obama is the first “social media president”: the first to have @POTUS on Twitter, the first to go live on Facebook from the Oval Office, the first to answer questions from citizens on YouTube, the first to use a filter on Snapchat. Over the past eight years, the President, Vice President, First Lady, and the White House have used social media and technology to engage with people around the country and the world on the most important issues of our time (while having some fun along the way).
A recent study of big data initiatives in 65 cities has interesting guidance for Federal big data initiatives. The researchers studied how data is collected and then used for decision making in what they called “the framework for Big Data initiatives.” There are two major cycles in the framework: “The data cycle governs the tools and processes used to collect, verify, and integrate data from multiple sources. Because of the variety of data sources involved, data teams in this cycle are [sic] often composed of representatives from multiple departments to leverage their field expertise and insider understanding of the data.
Trends on Tuesdays: Mobile Phone Camera Upgrades Offer Interesting Opportunities for Government Agencies
Professional photographer and early “iPhonography” pioneer, Chase Jarvis coined the phrase, “The best camera is the one that’s with you.” The recent jumps in mobile phone photo technology presents interesting opportunities for government agencies to consider as mobile phone cameras are starting to rival and surpass professional gear. When Google and Apple both announced their annual flagship phone upgrades this past month, the Pixel XL and iPhone 7 Plus, respectively, the most talked about and touted features were the cameras.
Summary: Building on efforts to boost Federal cybersecurity & as part of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, today we’re releasing a proposed guidance to modernize Federal IT. America’s spirit of ingenuity and entrepreneurship created the world’s most innovative economy and keeps us dominant in today’s digital age. Indeed, in 1985 about 2,000 people used the Internet; today, 3.2 billion people do. What started out as a useful tool for a few is now a necessity for all of us—as essential for connecting people, goods, and services as the airplane or automobile.
Summary: Significant strides in improving public access to scholarly publications and digital data help usher in an era of open science. This week marks the 8th annual Open Access Week, when individuals and organizations around the world celebrate the value of opening up online access to the results of scholarly research. It is an opportune time to highlight the considerable progress that Federal departments and agencies have made increasing public access to the results of Federally-supported scientific research and advancing the broader notion of open science.
Infographics are a useful tool for communicators to share complex data and information in a quick, easy-to-read format. Infographics can be beautifully designed works of art, pulling in a reader through storytelling and visual entertainment. And like art, infographics can be large, epic works, or small treasures. While a massive infographic immediately arrests due to its overwhelming data content and creative approach, sometimes it can still fall flat by just being plain overwhelming.
In December, I plan to write two postings detailing a scenario analysis for the next ten years of the Federal government’s data technologies. Governments are on the cusp of amazing technological advances propelled by artificial intelligence, blockchain technologies, and the Internet of Things. Also, governments will face new challenges such as the recent global cyber attack that took down Twitter and Netflix. I want to invite you, the reader, to also send in your predictions for the future of Federal government data.
Today we’re launching three new initiatives powered by GSA Digital Communities that leap federal agencies ahead on some of the most innovative new capabilities becoming available to our programs — Artificial Intelligence, Virtual/Augmented Reality, and the U.S. Digital Registry. These new Communities and portal are products of inter-agency collaboration and our shared commitment pushing the bar forward on effective adoption of digital public services that meet the needs of citizens today and tomorrow… and plant seeds for growing long into the future.
As you know, over the last few years DigitalGov has surfaced the innovative advancements many are making across the government space while providing a platform for learning best practices and coming together as a community. Over the course of the next few weeks, a small team from 18F and Office of Products and Programs are working on reimagining a future DigitalGov and DigitalGov University. We are looking to talk to a few readers of DigitalGov.
We recently interviewed Sara Wachter-Boettcher, author of Content Everywhere: Strategy and Structure for Future-Ready Content. Sara, a frequent conference speaker, runs a content strategy consultancy, and is the co-author of Design for Real Life. She has extensive experience consulting with major brands, universities, agencies, nonprofits, and others to make their content more memorable, manageable, and sustainable. How would you describe structured content? Most content on the web is unstructured, meaning it’s just a page with blobs of text on it.
These days, when you turn on the news you almost always see another hack, leak, or breach putting sensitive information at risk. But we’ve been focusing on keeping federal agency information systems secure for a long time. For October’s Cybersecurity Awareness Month, the WatchBlog takes a look at federal cybersecurity challenges. What is the threat? Cybersecurity incidents can pose serious challenges to personal privacy and security as well as the economy and national security.
Imagine this – a go-to member of your organization just retired, a furlough is approaching, and now no one knows what to do. What communications need to go out? Who is considered ‘excepted’? Can the daycare center stay open? In the absence of mind-melds, how do you make expert knowledge easily accessible to newer team members? The Strategic Initiatives Group (SIG) at the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Office of Human Resources was confronted with the specific challenge of how to transfer complicated programs to new owners with no familiarity, so their team decided to build a tool to solve their specific problem and a host of others along the way.
Federal agencies confront tough problems every day. In searching for solutions, agencies will want to attract different perspectives, test new products, build capacity and communities, and increase public awareness. How do they do it? The answer: open innovation. Federal agencies need to engage and collaborate with all sectors of society, a task made easier by online technologies, says a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued last week. OPEN INNOVATION: Practices to Engage Citizens and Effectively Implement Federal Initiatives is accompanied by an infographic and podcast, all well worth your while.
Built on the lessons learned during the pilot phase of the Digital Acquisitions Accelerator, the accompanying playbook examines the current acquisition landscape and provides an approach to procuring custom software solutions. Our goal is to make the government a smarter and more informed buyer of digital products and services. The playbook has four main sections: Overview Case studies Process Primers The overview section provides background on digital acquisitions and highlights some ways to lower risk when planning this type of activity.
The Data Briefing: Using Artificial Intelligence to Augment the Work of Frontline Government Employees
You have probably read about the recent release of the White House’s report on using artificial intelligence (AI). As with previous technologies, AI holds much promise in the areas of education, commerce, criminal justice, the environment—almost all aspects of the American public’s life. AI also poses a danger if it is not properly managed and controlled. This is why the report advises that “[a]s the technology of AI continues to develop, practitioners must ensure that AI-enabled systems are governable; that they are open, transparent, and understandable; that they can work effectively with people; and that their operation will remain consistent with human values and aspirations.
The seemingly sci-fi world envisioned in the movie Her is very close to becoming our reality. Several new developments merging hardware, artificial intelligence technology, chatbots and persistent audio assistants are now available, with software developer kits to expand the platforms. Amazon was first to market with their Echo device, and since have added the Echo Dot, both using their voice assistant “Alexa” to allow users to play music, buy goods from Amazon, call for a cab, check the weather and other tasks—all just using their voice commands.
I recently sat down with Michelle Earley, Program Manager, to discuss the new changes for the 20th anniversary of USAJOBS. 1) What are the three big lessons learned from 20 years of building and managing USAJOBS? I think one of the greatest benefits of being an Agile program is that we are constantly learning. In 2013, our team implemented the first phase of the data warehouse which provided agencies with data that could be leveraged to improve recruiting efforts.
Come out and join us on Saturday, October 22, 2016 from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm for a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon on Gender Equality in the Innovation Hub at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. Register for this event today! Help us improve Wikipedia entries related to gender equality with the National Archives and Records Administration. You do not need to have prior experience editing Wikipedia. During the event we will have an introduction to editing Wikipedia and a discussion of World War I Nurses and Red Cross records in the National Archives.
The Law Library acquired a large collection from William S. Hein & Co., Inc. to make all volumes of several collections (like the Federal Register) available in open access to researchers. Preparing these files by adding metadata for easy searching takes a lot of work, so this summer we asked law students and library students from across the country to help become our “crowd” in order to crowdsource metadata for a collection of 542 volumes of U.
As localities struggle with issues such as the Zika virus and the Opioid epidemic, gathering and disseminating trustworthy information can be daunting. But one group of Federal agencies and offices have come together to create a free and easy way to incorporate public health web content, images, video, microsites, data, and infographics into other sites, apps, and social media. Digital media syndication of science-based resources from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) can be combined with your ongoing activities and can help coordinate health messaging for maximum impact and reach.
On September 8th, the General Services Administration (GSA) held a Technology Industry Day to talk to industry leaders about the products and solutions developed by our agency and to hear feedback on how we can better engage industry. We’re thrilled that more than 300 members of the technology industry in person and via the live stream were able to join us for this first step towards a closer partnership and more open lines of communication about how we can work together to transform federal technology.
Here is the outline for our 2016 Open Government Plan. Let us know what you think. We’ve also posted this on GitHub/NASA for your comments: https://github.com/nasa/Open-Gov-Plan-v4. NASA and Open Government NASA is an open government agency based on the founding legislation in the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, which calls for participation and sharing in the conduct of how we go about the business of expanding the frontiers of knowledge, advancing understanding of the universe, and serving the American public.
One day, at an unnamed agency, the Outlook server crashed. The server stayed down for the rest of the afternoon. Deprived of email and meeting calendars, employees wandered around trying to remember what meetings they had to attend. Other employees went searching for people who they ordinarily would email. There was confusion that made people realize just how dependent they were on a single software program. As the Federal government moves toward digital transformation, I have been thinking about how agencies can best weather the transition from legacy systems to cloud-based, agile applications.
What does Snapchat, the disappearing message-and-video platform most used by teenagers, have to do with government outreach and communications programs? Well, Snapchat has quickly become an incredibly effective digital storytelling medium, and content creators across multiple government agencies have adopted it as an important part of their programs. A recent New York Times article described how nearly 35 million users in the United States watched highlights and stories from the Summer Olympics on Snapchat.
Earlier this year, it was predicted that content marketing would become even more important due to its ability to enhance not just visibility, but also increase engagement with customers—who could, in turn, become great promoters of your content. Needless to say, much of our time these days as communicators is spent on developing, distributing, maximizing, and repurposing content. In the recent blog post, 15 Content Marketing Trends for 2016, it is noted that the “average American spends nearly four hours a day bombarded with different types of content.
Private industry and government came together to find best ways to deliver 21st century technology to federal agencies. On September 8, 2016 Administrator Denise Turner Roth of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) hosted the first-ever Technology Industry Day to provide a better understanding of GSA’s path to improve the government’s outdated technology systems. The event featured how GSA buys, builds and shares technology for the federal government. “The General Services Administration has a long history of being a strong leader in adopting technology in government,” said Administrator Roth when giving her opening remarks at GSA’s Technology Industry Day.
Hi there, DigitalGov! Have you looked in vain for quality animated GIFs from a reputable source? Have your searches left you annoyed and frustrated because you can’t find a GIF with properly attributed and sourced content? Wondering what you can do and where to look? Come on over to the new Giphy channel from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)! We’ve opened our vault to reveal dozens of animated GIFs ready to share and use.
****A mule is the hybrid offspring of a male donkey and a horse. This new species is stronger and better equipped than the species from which it comes. Overall, mules tend to be healthier, more sound, and live longer than horses. They are favored over horses in mountainous terrain because the mule has a reputation for being more surefooted than their equine cousins. Finally, mules do not require expensive grains, eat less and don’t tend to overeat as horses do.
Many content managers in the digital world understand the irrepressible desire to improve, fix, edit, add, and move things around. Indeed, it’s our job to nurture this ongoing process to create, update, test, update again. And, repeat! But, what about those sites or pages that seem to never crawl up to the ‘high-priority’ list and have been perhaps a little, ehh… neglected. For our Web team, this was our Center’s staff Intranet site.
One of the questions we get asked the most at FedRAMP from our vendors is: “How much will it cost me to get through FedRAMP?” One of the reasons this is a hard question to answer is that comparing cloud providers to each other isn’t even like trying to compare apples to oranges – those are both at least fruit. Comparing a global content distribution network to a government only ticketing and CRM solution and then comparing to a web-based agile project management tool is like comparing an apple to a bike to a television.
Social Security joins you and your family in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15. We know the contributions of Hispanics can be traced to before the origins of the United States with the discovery, exploration, and naming of many places in our nation, such as state names like California, Colorado, and Texas and city names like San Antonio, Santa Barbara, and Boca Raton. Hispanics have influenced every facet of life, from language to our cultural development.
No Longer an Idea of the Future, Artificial Intelligence Is Here and You Are Probably Already Using It
It might surprise some of you to know that artificial intelligence (AI) is already in use and a routine part of our daily lives, but we leverage this technology when we use our smartphones or other devices to ask Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google Now, or Amazon’s Alexa a question to get the facts or data we are looking for. Using your voice, you can say, “Where’s the nearest gas station?
Suddenly, digital video is everywhereon your social timelines. As a government storyteller, you may be overwhelmed about all the tools available and all of the features each publishing platform has to offer. Facebook, Twitter and SnapChat all offer great video platforms that are free and easy to use, plus they make it easy for you to market to your social followers on those respective platforms. When most people think of Google, they often think of the search engine, but Google also has been on the forefront of creating media and research tools, metric suites and content presentation platforms for years.
This is the final post in the 5-part series, The Right Tools for the Job: Re-Hosting DigitalGov Search to a Dynamic Infrastructure Environment. Federal websites are required to implement DNSSEC, which relies on knowing exactly what server is responding to a request. In Amazon Web Services (AWS), the problem of unreliable servers is solved by Elastic Load Balancing (ELB). An ELB containing one or more servers is presented to the world as a single hostname — say, usasearch-elb.
September is National Preparedness Month. FEMA’s Ready.gov is encouraging everyone to plan how they would stay safe and communicate during disasters that can affect their communities. Additionally, Ready.gov is encouraging full participation in America’s PrepareAthon! and the national day of action, National PrepareAthon! Day, which culminates National Preparedness Month on September 30. These days, you probably use social media to update your audience on what you are doing, share an interesting article or two, and catch up on the day’s news.
Last week we wrote about how we diffuse knowledge through shared interests and sharing best practices on the Micro-purchase Platform. This week, we’ll focus on some of the lessons learned during the (completed) DATA Act prototype. Importantly, though that project has finished, this post is not meant to be a full retrospective or post-mortem; we’ll be focusing on technical decisions. We should also delineate this from the more long term DATA Act broker, which is under active development.
Note: This is a guest blog post by Amando E. Gavino, Jr., Director, Office of Network Services, ITS/FAS/GSA. He is responsible for a portfolio of telecommunication acquisition solutions that provide government agencies the ability to meet their diverse set of telecommunication requirements. Acquisition solutions include Networx, Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions – EIS (the future replacement for Networx), SATCOM, Enterprise Mobility, Connections II, Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative – Wireless (FSSI-W), and the Federal Relay Service.
This is post 4 in the 5-part series, The Right Tools for the Job: Re-Hosting DigitalGov Search to a Dynamic Infrastructure Environment. This post references the previous posts frequently, so please read those before reading this one if you haven’t done so already. In addition to the DNS challenges created by offering “masked” domains such as nasasearch.nasa.gov, we also had to solve the problem of how to maintain SSL certificates for the main search.
This is post 3 in the 5-part series The Right Tools for the Job: Re-Hosting DigitalGov Search to a Dynamic Infrastructure Environment. “All problems in computer science can be solved by another level of indirection, except of course for the problem of too many indirections.” – David Wheeler The simplest of our four requirements was to allow customers to choose whether to use the search.usa.gov domain for their search results page, or create a “masked” domain name such as search.
This is post 2 in the 5-part series The Right Tools for the Job: Re-Hosting DigitalGov Search to a Dynamic Infrastructure Environment. The last major infrastructure upgrade that DigitalGov Search had was in 2010. Not only has technology evolved significantly since then, but so have business models for right-sizing costs. Moving to Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure allowed us to improve reliability by creating self-healing servers and distributing the service across four physically isolated datacenters, and reduce datacenter costs by 40% per month — no longer do we have to pay for peak throughput capacity overnight, on weekends, or during other predictably low-traffic periods.
We are working hard to serve you and continue to make improvements to Emma, our Spanish-speaking Interactive Virtual Assistant. Help us improve Emma’s knowledge by continuing to ask your immigration-related questions on USCIS.gov/es from any device. This blog will help you understand a little bit more about how Emma works and how you can help her serve you better. Our Interactive Virtual Assistant (IVA) “Emma” is available in English at USCIS.
The General Services Administration (GSA) is known for managing federal real estate and leveraging the government’s buying power to get the best deal for taxpayers, but it also drives and leads technology and innovation within the federal government. The Technology Transformation Service (TTS) builds, buys and shares tech to help federal agencies achieve their mission. They create better services for citizens everyday. TTS works closely with the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) and the GSA CIO to be first movers in and apply agile technology in a meaningful way.
The Smithsonian’s mission statement is wonderfully simple: “The increase and diffusion of knowledge.” The “increasing” is arguably the straightforward part – the Smithsonian has amassed a collection of over 138 million objects and specimens, and the Institution’s curators and scientists obsessively add to the world’s knowledge base, publishing papers, creating exhibitions, and sharing their expertise. But how can all this informational goodness get passed along to teachers, our nation’s most powerful “diffusers” of knowledge?
In six years, you can get a lot done! If you are the International Space Station, you could have orbited the earth 35,040 times. If you are Apple, you could have released 10 new iPhones. If you are the National Archives, you have gone from zero social media accounts to over 100! It’s been six years since NARA’s first social strategy was released. Things have changed in the digital universe, and so we’ve been working on a reboot of our social media strategy.
When some U.S. athletes at this month’s Olympic Games started showing up at their events with dark red circles on their torsos, sports commentators and the media hungrily sought answers to what the marks could be. In less than a day after the spots were…spotted, the story of the mysterious circles was becoming clearer: they were the result of cupping—a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practice that involves placing cups on the skin to create suction.
The CALC team is an agile team of four — six if you count the Scrummaster and the Product Owner — building a simple means to load price data into the original CALC tool. They’re an Agile team, which means everybody pitches in on everything to some degree, and here, in their own words, is some reflection on what happened when they all scrubbed in on the Discovery phase. How have you been conducting the Discovery phase?
Summary: Today, we’re launching the M3 Framework to provide agencies with leading best practices for mission-support function modernizations and migrations. The government’s internal operations have a powerful impact on service to its citizens, and this Administration has made transformation of management practices within the Federal Government a key priority. By sharing and streamlining mission support services and retiring or modernizing inefficient legacy IT systems, we’re better able to overcome the challenges of large-scale mission support projects, support core agency missions, and make our IT infrastructure more secure – all while achieving a more efficient, secure, and effective government for the American people.
We’re incredibly excited to announce the launch of the new FedRAMP Marketplace dashboard! It’s loaded with all sorts of ways for you to see how everyone is participating with FedRAMP! When we launched the FedRAMP Marketplace about 3 years ago, our intent was to create a place for agencies and cloud service providers (CSPs) to connect. As FedRAMP has grown, so has our marketplace. It’s become a space where all of you interact – CSPs, agencies, and third party assessment organizations (3PAOs) – and in more than just a one way interaction.
This is the first post of a 5-part series. DigitalGov Search is a commercial-grade search engine provided as a shared-service by the United States General Services Administration. We power about 2,300 search configurations for hundreds of federal, state, and local government agencies. Using our platform, agencies can easily configure a search experience for the public that brings together resources from across their many publishing platforms: websites, blogs and feeds, social media, and government-specific resources like rules and notices from the Federal Register, and posts from USAJobs.
The Data Briefing: DevOps and Containers and Why They Are Important to Transforming Federal Government IT
You may have heard about “DevOps” in the news or when meeting with IT professionals. What exactly is DevOps and what, if any, connection does it have with agile? Also, what do “containers” have to do with all of this? In this week’s column, I will introduce DevOps and a related technology: containers. Some DevOps practitioners will argue with my interpretations, and I invite these practitioners to explain their perspectives in the comments.
Many of our cloud service providers (CSPs), federal agencies, and third party assessment organizations (3PAOs) often share common issues and questions when going through the FedRAMP process. To help guide our stakeholders, we will be providing weekly tips and address frequently asked questions and concerns. This week’s tips come from FedRAMP’s Accelerated event. Read the full list of questions asked during FedRAMP Accelerated here. Send potential tips and questions that you would like published as a tip [via email].
August 8, 2016, marks the 18th anniversary of the amendment to the Section 508 Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which covers access to information technology in the federal sector. To recognize the importance of IT accessibility, we wanted to highlight some agency initiatives to improve accessibility across the federal landscape. As amended, the Act requires: …access to the federal government’s electronic and information technology. It applies to all federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use such technology.
Earlier this week, I shared with my colleagues at EXIM the results of our 2016 export credit insurance customer survey. This is the third consecutive year that our largest customer segment has been asked to share their feedback with us. We appreciate knowing, through our customers’ eyes, how we are doing on our agency’s strategic goal to improve the ease of doing business. But what strikes me as most compelling is the story that has emerged over the past three survey years about our customers’ business outcomes and what they have achieved, in part, with EXIM’s help.
This spring, the eRegulations Notice & Comment team began building out a new feature set for the platform — adding the ability for agencies with proposed regulations to show the public more precisely the changes being proposed and allow agencies to receive more granular, contextual, and better-organized comments. One of the challenges we wrestled with was how to share our work out frequently and openly with the dozens of interested parties, while not making that a blocker in focusing on our work of doing many demos for the many different parties interested in and informing our work.
Summary: Today, we’re releasing the Federal Source Code policy to support improved access to custom software code developed by or for the Federal Government. “If we can reconceive of our government so that the interactions and the interplay between private sector, nonprofits, and government are opened up, and we use technology, data, social media in order to join forces around problems, then there’s no problem that we face in this country that is not soluble.
The Content Corner: On-The-Fly Content Strategies (Round-offs, Back Handsprings, & Double Twisting Layouts Not Required)
As effective marketers and communicators, we are constantly seeking new and improved ways to reach our audience or customer base. These days, our “online lives” intersect with every activity we are involved in, so timeliness is essential. With fresh ideas and engaging, perhaps interactive, content, we can literally make a difference in the lives of our audience. Much of this can be developed and organized through a well thought-out content calendar in advance that seeks to align our content with upcoming events and trends that our audience is interested in.
One of the biggest challenges in implementing a new technology or process is change. Change creates a multitude of feelings; for some it is apprehension and uncertainty, while for others it is excitement and acceptance. Change management is defined as “a systematic approach to dealing with change, both from the perspective of an organization and the individual.” Creating a Culture of Change Change agents are people willing to push for enhancement.
Summary: We’re taking action to accelerate efforts to increase the efficiency of Federal data centers, reduce costs, and improve the government’s overall IT security posture. Today, the Administration is taking action to accelerate efforts to increase the efficiency of Federal data centers, reduce costs, and improve the overall information technology (IT) security posture of the Federal Government. In 2010, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) launched the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI) to promote the use of green IT: that is, reduce the overall energy and real estate footprint of government data centers; reduce the cost of data center hardware, software, and operations; increase the overall IT security posture of the Federal Government; and shift IT investments to more efficient computing platforms and technologies.
Summary: Today, OMB is releasing an update to Circular A-130, the Federal Government’s governing document for the management of Federal information resources. Today the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is releasing an update to the Federal Government’s governing document for the management of Federal information resources: Circular A-130, Managing Information as a Strategic Resource. The way we manage information technology (IT), security, data governance, and privacy has rapidly evolved since A-130 was last updated in 2000.
****We have previously written about microsites in the federal government. A microsite is a small collection of web pages—a subset of an organization’s full website. Partners can embed microsites that present curated information on a specific topic or campaign directly within their own websites. And perhaps best of all, microsites that are API-enabled are maintained and updated by the source organization so that when updates are made, those updates are automatically made on partner sites in real time.
****Content can be categorized in many ways. While breaking down your website analytics, pay a bit of extra attention to the difference between your short- and long-form content; you may find some interesting discoveries. Let’s first define the two terms: Short – Content that is generally created quickly, and consumed just as fast; e.g., tweets, status updates, short blogs and articles (350 words or less). Long – In-depth content designed to give a large amount of detail and info; e.
You may not know it, but the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has changed your life. There’s the Internet, for starters. And if that isn’t enough, the agency also has played a pivotal role in shaping GPS, stealth aircraft and drone technology. In fact, ever since its creation under President Eisenhower, DARPA has been transforming life on and off the battlefield. And the ideas haven’t dried up. A scan of programs currently in the works reveals DARPA to be as forward-looking and vital as ever.
“Smart City” is an emerging term to describe how a community – large or small – uses connected technology and/or other data sets to influence and improve the delivery of services to the private and public sectors. By integrating data and connectivity into their daily operations, communities can automate many functions to create efficiencies and maximize their resources. These were just some of the many concepts discussed last week at the Smart Cities Innovation Summit in Austin, Texas, which brought together leaders from over 200 cities and towns to share information about how to best leverage state-of-the-art data solutions for the benefit of their communities.
The National Archives Catalog has reached a milestone: we now have 95% of our holdings completely described at the series level in our online catalog. This is a monumental achievement. Why? Because the National Archives holds over 14 billion pages of records, and we are adding hundreds of millions of pages to that total every year. Describing our records in the online Catalog means that the information for all of those holdings is in one central place for researchers anywhere to search and browse, and is vital to our strategic goal to Make Access Happen.
Four years ago, BusinessUSA launched with a mission to revolutionize the way government provides services to small businesses and exporters. Using technology to erase bureaucratic boundaries, BusinessUSA streamlined the way businesses find and get what they need from government. This “no wrong door” approach combined resources from over 800 websites and created a single point of entry for businesses looking to grow and expand. At USAGov, we’ve been fans and supporters of BusinessUSA since the beginning.
The idea of portable content is nothing new. Content needs to be mobile ready, responsive, and readily consumed by tools such as the Internet of Things (IoT)—a proposed development of the Internet in which everyday objects have network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data. Developers need to stop creating fixed, single-purpose content and start making it more future-ready, flexible, and reusable. Two significant factors assist in portability are information architecture (IA) and content strategy (CS).
Content marketing is everywhere and you’re hearing more about it every day—but how do you do it well? While content marketing can take many forms (articles, infographics, videos, and more), it shares a common purpose: providing useful content to attract new customers to your product or service. At USAGov, customized e-mail messages to our subscribers represent one of our most powerful content marketing tools. What’s the Core Concept? Every USAGov e-mail begins with an idea either from our content or marketing team.
The mission of U.S. General Services Administration (GSA)’s Integrated Technology Services (ITS) is to deliver best value technology solutions to the government and the American people, and one of the most critically important capabilities that our nation currently needs is strengthened cybersecurity. We have been working with numerous other federal agencies to ensure that the government has the tools and know-how it needs to protect our systems, data, and information.
Tech giants have changed the world of broadcast forever. In a little more than a year, video on Facebook went from being a seldomly seen media type on a user’s timeline to a strategic priority for Mark Zuckerberg. The platform now serves over 8 billion video views a day and Facebook continues to roll out improvements to Facebook Live, a tool that lets any Facebook user easily broadcast from their mobile phone.
It is at the intersections of fields where you find the most fascinating and innovative concepts. Recently, a conference on “Open Human Resources and the Cognitive Era” explored the use of chatbots and blockchain technologies in human resources. Human Resources (HR) is quietly undergoing a revolution as many HR practitioners are transforming HR by using open source concepts. It is fascinating to see how cognitive technologies and cloud technologies are changing HR from a transactional and compliance function to an essential strategic organizational asset.
Twitter has come a long way. In ten years of evolution, we’ve seen Twitter go from a simple text messaging service to a versatile platform, which in the words of Twitter, provides a “rich canvas for creative expression featuring photos, videos, hashtags, Vines, and more.” Now Twitter is offering additional enhancements to their service to make it easier to engage with customers and accomplish our mission. So what do all these upcoming changes mean for your government account?
Business processes have fascinated me since I took an undergraduate philosophy course in modern business management. A part-time professor who was a management consultant by day taught this unusual class. Perhaps business management thinking was first experimenting with ideas that would later lead to the agile and lean movement today. From this class I learned that nearly all organizational issues could be traced back to bad processes rather than poor workers.
Much of our work with government partners to deliver better digital services has resulted in full websites, applications, and embarking on large-scale transformation efforts. In addition to those types of projects, we also work on shorter, faster, smaller-scale projects designed to show our partners different points of view and different techniques to approach their most challenging problems. Recently, we partnered with the Office of Integrated Technology Services (ITS) here within the General Services Administration (GSA) on a four-month effort to develop a plain language guide, informed by research and interviews, to help technology companies interested in doing business with the federal government better understand how to join IT Schedule 70.
Few other federal agencies deal with as much data as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Big science creates big data, and NASA manages many of the biggest science projects in world history. Even in the early days of NASA’s history, NASA pioneered new ways to create and store data. So, in the world of the cloud, Internet of Things, and intelligent agents, how does NASA deal with its big data needs?
Internet strategist Mary Meeker delivered her 2016 Internet Trends report this month, and there are several key takeaways for government agencies to consider and continue tracking as our connected world continues to evolve: Mobile phone adoption and Internet growth is meeting saturation. Incremental global growth will continue (especially in India, which she called out for their wild expansion) but especially for Americans, most people that want to be on the Internet can be on the Internet.
The National Archives is pleased to participate in the U.S. Digital Registry, the authoritative resource for official third-party websites, social media platforms and mobile apps managed by the U.S. federal government. The U.S. Digital Registry is an API-generating platform designed to authenticate third-party sites in the federal government in order to help maintain accountability over our digital services. As more users access services, communicate, and engage with their government online and through social media, the U.
We’ve expanded analytics.usa.gov to include 15(!) more agency-specific dashboard pages. We now offer agency-specific analytics data pages for a total of 25 major federal agencies, and each one is accessible from the dropdown menu at the top of the site. Additionally, we’ve moved the downloadable datasets to their own pages, rather than be located on the dashboard pages themselves. The page to download aggregated data for all participating sites is now analytics.
This is the fifth in a series describing how the Social Security Administration is working towards a more modern IT infrastructure. You can find part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here and part 4 here. In the next three posts we will consider the problem of modernizing old legacy software. In this post we will start a discussion about why modernizing software is important and what is most important to think about first.
Last summer, Kids.Gov revamped its presence on Pinterest in an attempt to find new ways to connect with its followers. The Marketing Team set out to learn more about our audiences and the kind of content they like. Despite being a difficult platform to navigate, we set lofty goals for ourselves and developed a timely strategy to pin every day. A year in… Twelve months later, our metrics are up and we correctly calculated that a shift to educational content would be key.
So, you’ve recently joined an agile team — congratulations! Here at 18F, we work in an agile way — in other words, we base our designs on user needs, conduct usability testing, iterate quickly, and release MVPs (minimum viable products) rather than highly finalized releases. We take an agile approach to content too. While there’s really no “ideal” project or process most of the time, we’ve found that these guidelines help us develop useful services for millions of people.
Today, I am happy to announce the newly optimized DHS.gov website. Over the past year, DHS has worked behind the scenes to update and modernize our flagship website, making it faster and easier to use. Some of the specific differences you’ll see are: Compatibility for both desktop computers and mobile devices (phones and tablets) Cleaner, easier-to-read site format and presentation Faster and more accurate site navigation using our internal search function and external search engines (like Google and Bing) DHS.
Federal agencies are required to make all federal websites accessible through a secure, HTTPS-only connection by the end of the 2016 calendar year. What you might not have known is that the switch to HTTPS will improve your ability to track which sites are directing web traffic to yours. Recently, a federal colleague reached out to a digital community about a huge jump in referrals from Wikipedia.org to a federal site in late February.
Recently, Regional Administrator Sara Manzano-Díaz of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) introduced a web-based leasing tool, the Automated Advanced Acquisition Program (AAAP), to 60 lessors and/or brokers at the Dow Building in Philadelphia. The AAAP tool was designed to consolidate and streamline the leasing process, making for a more efficient, transparent process that also gets the best deal for the American taxpayer. Ms. Manzano-Diaz said that the AAAP will transform how the GSA Mid-Atlantic Region conducts its leasing by transitioning the system to an electronic platform that will serve as the primary procurement vehicle for GSA to acquire office space.
I first came across the redesigned IdentityTheft.gov on Reddit, of all places. Someone had posted a link to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) newly redesigned site and wrote: I hope this never happens to any of you as the entire thing can be really stressful. The identitytheft.gov website is a true breath of fresh air…You can talk to an actual person. They also have this extremely easy wizard to click through your situation and it will auto-generate a “Recovery Plan” including dispute letters, steps to contact law enforcement, putting credit freezes, and basically protecting yourself.
Good communicators are always…well…evaluating the way they communicate. As we think of the “customer experience,” it is key to constantly consider your methods for engaging with your audience. Just as the platforms themselves continue to change to keep their audience, continuing to refine our ways of sending messages will assure that you don’t get left behind. With the explosion of social media, almost to the point of supplanting traditional media, various software platforms seek to assist communicators with planning and even the day-to-day.
At USAGov, we always put our customers first. In the wake of our rebranding efforts, our desire to create a positive user experience across the organization has pushed us to turn a scrutinous eye toward Kids.gov — a site focused on providing information and resources to parents, teachers, and kids. In a cross-organizational effort, individuals from the marketing, user experience, and performance measurement teams have joined forces to “reenvision” the site’s content and presentation to better suit the public’s needs.
Customers are not the only group with whom we need to effectively communicate as we work to improve our quality of service. Effective communication between employees and leadership is critical to improving the customer experience. Front line employees interact with the public on a regular basis, and if employees do not have the information they need, or if they are not happy in their work, customers can see that. Here are some tips to improve internal communications.
Performance metrics, targets and public reporting are not new in government; however, customer-oriented metrics have been underutilized and under-reported publicly for a long time. Today, as the principles of customer experience as a management discipline gain momentum across the federal government, there is an opportunity to use data to tell more of the story where customers’ experiences are concerned. Balancing Internal and External Customer Experience Metrics Internal and external metrics are needed to tell a more holistic story, versus internal data alone or external data alone.
FDA’s “The Real Cost” campaign aims to be edgy, just like its teen audience. Last month, the campaign won the 2016 Shorty Award for the Best Overall Tumblr Presence. “The Real Cost” educates youth ages 12 to 17 about the harmful effects of tobacco use. The campaign works to prevent teens from picking up cigarettes or trying other tobacco products. The audience isn’t just any teens out there; it’s specifically teens who are open to trying tobacco.
Last week, I had a brush with a bona fide music legend — the great Stevie Wonder. Was I starstruck? Of course. I’ve long admired his musical accomplishments and advocacy for people with disabilities. His appearance at the Grammy Awards in February highlighted once again the need to improve accessible technology, particularly in the workplace. What brought me, Stevie Wonder and hundreds of other accessibility advocates together was the International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference.
With the recent launch of the Core Federal Services Council—which seeks to improve the customer experience for core federal programs by ensuring use of customer feedback data and identifying strategies—building on the Feedback USA pilot, the Federal Front Door and other customer experience initiatives, 2016 may in fact be the Year of the Customer. But, how do we ensure these efforts can build momentum and lead to meaningful change in government?
We are in an era of digital transformation across many different industries, including government. Those organizations that have successfully led in this area or have fully transformed into digital organizations are succeeding at a faster pace than those who have not. The imperative for the federal government to provide effective digital service is clear. The public expects a responsive, transparent and efficient government that mirrors their experience with private sector entities.
Summary: Improving the way you engage with the White House through our online petitions platform In July 2015, we announced a big change in the way we would answer petitions on We the People. We committed to responding to you within a 60-day timeframe, whenever possible. We assembled a team of people dedicated to getting your policy questions and requests to the right people so you get the most informed response.
The agile transformation at the Census Bureau started several years ago after GAO recommended Census implement a standard Systems Development Lifecycle (SDLC). Around the same time came the newly released Digital Services Playbook as well as a general shift in the industry to using a more agile approach in software development to improve product delivery and business customer satisfaction. Along with the clear benefits, there was a general appetite from individuals and teams to introduce agile concepts into their project.
Armed with the knowledge that ‘most studies suggest that losses are twice as powerful, psychologically, as gains,’ federal change agents can better prepare for possible cultural resistance as they begin to implement agile practices at their agencies. There are a variety of resistant-to-change personas (change is painful for most of us, but we dislike it in different ways) those seeking change will need to understand to be successful. Bill Brantley, ‘agile OG,’ from the U.
Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.—Agile Manifesto My team has experienced a lot of change in the past few weeks. We were a team of seven, and now we’ve been reduced to two. We’re off-boarding two developers, a content specialist, and the product owner, and we’re onboarding a new content specialist and another developer. This is a lot of change to absorb at once.
The world’s toughest challenges require out-of-the-box thinking. But how can agencies facilitate intentional, structured collaboration that leads to this thinking? Gamification. To address issues ranging from maritime piracy to Naval energy use to 3D printing, the Navy uses gamification via MMOWGLI, the Massive Multiplayer Online Wargame Leveraging the Internet. MMOWGLI is an online gaming platform that connects players in order to spark innovative thinking about a particular topic. The platform was created by the Institute for the Future (IFTF) and the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) on behalf of the Office of Naval Research, and NPS has hosted over 20 games since 2012.
About a year and a half ago, the Federal Citizen Information Center—today called USAGov—embarked on a very ambitious task: integrating our content operations. We blurred lines that defined silos and adopted a bilingual content approach to offer a more consistent experience, regardless of language preference or point of access to our information. See more about our rebirth. As we were figuring out our new content model, we saw the need to reinvent our style guidelines to reflect our new organization.
The concepts of agile may not be new, but there is a renewed push across government to embrace this customer-feedback driven methodology, in everything from software development to project management. A government community has even sprung up to help feds learn from one another what it takes to incorporate agile into more efficient and effective government services. So this month we’re throwing the spotlight on what agile looks like in the federal government right now:
Transcreation is a relatively new term that blends the words translation and creation. In a nutshell, transcreation involves taking a concept in one language and completely recreating it in another language. A successfully transcreated message (either written or visual) evokes the same emotions and carries the same implications in the target language as it does in the source language, but in a way that resonates with the target audience. What’s the big deal you may wonder?
In the next couple of years as new social media platforms emerge and organizations open more accounts, when do you make the decision to shut an account down? When resources are limited, we must analyze the effectiveness of our social media programs and put our time and effort into the accounts that best serve our audiences. For NIDA, this meant merging our Drug Facts Facebook page into our main NIDA Facebook page, so we could better serve our social media followers and redirect our time into a more effective account.
In the five months since we launched the Draft U.S. Web Design Standards — the U.S. government’s very own set of common UI components and visual styles for websites — over a dozen websites have used components of the Draft Standards on their sites. Recently, we talked to three federal web designers about their experiences using the Draft Standards, which were designed with accessibility and flexibility in mind: Maria Marrero is the User Experience Designer for USA.
Enrolling veterans in retirement plans. Helping small farmers access credit. Surveying employees about their workspace. These projects might seem widely different from one another: they span different agencies and diverse audiences. But all three projects have been addressed by a new team in government that is helping agencies build things better, based on behavioral science. The Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST) uses theories, research, and methods from the social and behavioral sciences to address and solve challenges faced by the public.
Employee engagement, evidenced by displays of dedication, persistence, effort and overall attachment to organization and mission, is a key factor in business success, but it can be a struggle for government organizations. Organizational leaders seeking to cultivate a culture of engagement need tangible examples of how to successfully move the needle in a positive direction. The annual Employee Viewpoint Survey (EVS) can provide agencies with a tangible way to measure employee engagement.
Summary: Today, we’re releasing for public comment a draft policy to support improved access to custom software code developed for the Federal Government. America has long been a nation of innovators. American scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs invented the microchip, created the Internet, invented the smartphone, started the revolution in biotechnology, and sent astronauts to the Moon. And America is just getting started. That is why since the start of this Administration, the President has taken concrete actions to support the spirit of innovation that makes America so strong.
In our last post, we introduced the Federal Front Door project and briefly described a six-week discovery phase, in which we set out to better understand how the general public feels about and interacts with the federal government, so that we can design and build products that improve people’s experience across government agencies. We think of the federal front door as the places the public first interacts with their government.
As we move into 2016, here are 10 trends I foresee flourishing around mobile, technology and government: The mobile-majority tipping point in government. Many agencies are already past this point, but as a whole, government websites are still desktop-majority, with 66% of people accessing federal websites via desktop and 34% on mobile. In 2016, the double-digit mobile growth will continue to accelerate and surpass 50% for almost all agencies. (Much of the Web passed this point last year or in 2014, btw).
Customer experience, or CX, is everywhere these days. Companies tout how they’re improving the customer experience with faster service, greater convenience or better products. If you’re wondering how customer “experience” differs from customer “service,” customer service usually involves a single interaction, such as a phone call to your cable company, while the customer experience encompasses the entire relationship, e.g., from how you originally selected your cable company, to their service throughout the course of your entire relationship with them.
Doing business with any U.S. government agency can be a daunting task. For example, in the case of customers new to EXIM Bank, there are application forms to complete, rules to understand, processes to navigate and conditions that have to be met in order to work with our agency. What our staff considers an “everyday” transaction can be overwhelming for a new customer! But EXIM has a big goal, as outlined in ExIm Bank Strategic Plan 2010-2015, to improve the ease of doing business for customers.
Like many of you, we watched with great interest this week when a citizen submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) asking them to release to the public Wu-Tang Clan’s album, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. While official sources explain that the desired outcome is not possible at this time… …in light of this creative effort, let’s discuss how you too can use FOIA and other Open Government programs to build a better tomorrow.
OMB’s Lisa Danzig, who co-leads the Cross Agency Priority (CAP) Customer Service Goal with Carolyn Colvin, from the Social Security Administration, shared a status update on the CAP goal work they’ve done since we last spoke with her, earlier this year. Background When the public comes to the federal government for information and services, they should receive an optimal customer experience. The Customer Service CAP goal spells out specific strategies to help us achieve this.
The new Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST) aims to make government programs more effective and efficient. Amira Choueiki from the SBST joined us to explain what the SBST does, and to discuss some of the projects they’ve worked on. Amira also shared how agencies can propose projects for the SBST to tackle, and explained how social and behavioral sciences, customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX) work together to enhance government products and services.
Over the past year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has undertaken a broad initiative to transform the way it delivers digital services. We’ve been working hand-in-hand with the EPA to make this transformation a success by supporting such programs as eManifest. Working with 18F is just one of many ways in which the EPA is trying to build greater capacity for delivering valuable, high-quality digital services. They are also working on ways to contract with high-quality digital service vendors, which is why the EPA just released a Request for Information (RFI) for creating an Environmental Digital Services marketplace.
It’s not new that agencies are inundated with data, but what data should you collect to improve your agency’s programs and enhance the customer experience? The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefit Security Administration’s (EBSA) has been perfecting their process to collect actionable data for the past 14 years. EBSA is a regulatory agency that develops and enforces private sector employee benefit plans, such as 401Ks, traditional pensions, and health care benefit plans.
I noticed recently that I have spent a decent amount of time discussing or referencing content workflow, but I haven’t spent much time on how to actually create or use workflows. Developing content workflows can be a fairly painless process that can make your regular content creation a much smoother and efficient process. Content workflows will vary depending on your agency and can cover specific topics such as blog workflows, social media workflows or even general site maintenance.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is looking for agency subject matter experts (SMEs) to participate in an occupational study of the Public Affairs Series 1035. OPM is accepting SME submissions until Wednesday, December 9th. The study will review the “current classification and qualification standards for public affairs work” and allow OPM to make any revisions or updates. OPM is interested to learn from agencies how public affairs work has changed since the current position classification standard was issued in 1981.
Government product managers sit at the intersection of three circles—business, design and technology. We play a key role in user experience (UX), because we are tasked with understanding users to build a product that is desirable and viable. This product could be a paper or online form, a website or a mobile app. Product management is different from project management. Product managers are the defenders and voice of the product’s customers, while a project manager is more concerned with balancing costs, scope and schedule issues.
If you or your agency have thought about working with 18F but are unsure of how we work with our partners, we have a new set of guidelines to help you out. The 18F Delivery Partner Playbook is specifically targeted at federal offices interested in working with 18F to build digital services. The playbook is based both on our project experience to date and common questions that come up during our business development process.
GSA unveiled a refreshed GSA.gov website yesterday with a more crisp design layout, improved usability, and features geared more toward mobile users. Increasingly, website traffic is coming from mobile users. With this in mind, GSA unveiled a newly refreshed GSA.gov website on Nov. 16. “Our ultimate goal for the refresh was to continue our work to get important government information into the hands of users–no matter how or where they’re accessing the information,” said Sarah Bryant, Director of GSA’s Enterprise Web Management Team within the Office of Communications and Marketing.
Summary: Today, the Administration directed a series of actions to continue strengthening Federal cybersecurity & modernizing the government’s technology infrastructure. Strengthening the cybersecurity of Federal networks, systems, and data is one of the most important challenges we face as a Nation. Every day, public and private sector leaders—my team included—are directing significant resources to address this ever-growing problem. Yet as cyber threats increase in severity, so does the pace of this Administration’s efforts.
Meeting customer needs can be done, no matter what agency you represent. A panel discussion at the 2015 DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit delved into customer experience (CX) work at three agencies with diverse missions. Andrew Hughey, Product Development Director at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), moderated the panel that featured Stephanie Thum, Vice President of Customer Experience at the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank), and David Simeon, myUSCIS product manager for U.
We are proud to announce our commitment to the third U.S. National Action Plan for Open Government, released this week at the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Global Summit in Mexico City, Mexico, and are also eager to share how Public Participation can empower our citizens to have a greater voice and impact in improving their services. In her opening comments at the OGP Summit, Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, noted that making a real impact for citizens takes more than a focus on just increasing social media followers or touting simulated performance, and instead we must dedicate digital engagement programs to providing real, meaningful paths to participation.
Our work at the General Services Administration encompass many of the pillars of Open Government, from giving a greater voice to citizens to through Public Participation innovations like Challenge.gov to making the DNA of all programs more accessible and usable through Open Data. We at GSA are proud to announce the agency’s commitment to the Third Open Government National Action Plan of the United States under the Open Government Partnership (OGP), announced this week at the OGP Summit in Mexico City, Mexico.
On October 19th, NIH brought together nearly 1,500 digital and health experts in person and via webcast. The event featured two keynote speakers and panels that showcased the unique perspectives of patients and caregivers, health communicators, health professionals and scientists. Susannah Fox, Chief Technology Officer of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said we have entered the “third digital era.” First we connected documents, then we connected people.
Today, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is proposing for the first time in fifteen years revisions to the Federal Government’s governing document establishing policies for the management of Federal information resources: Circular A-130, Managing Information as a Strategic Resource. More specifically, Circular A-130 provides general policy for the planning, budgeting, governance, acquisition, and management of Federal information resources. It also includes appendices outlining agency responsibilities for managing information, supporting use of electronic transactions, and protecting Federal information resources.
Well, it’s here: October 21, 2015. While Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) got to experience flying cars in 1989’s part two of the Back to the Future trilogy, we, on the other hand, are not quite there—yet! As the White House notes, we have come a long way in the past 30 years since the original Back to the Future came out in 1985, and #BackToTheFutureDay is a great opportunity to talk about where we’re going in the next 30.
Get your customer personas right, and you will improve the customer experience (CX) for the rest of your audience. That’s advice Rick Parrish from Forrester Research gave in response to an audience question during the September 29 DigitalGov University webinar on the state of CX in the federal government. Your key customers are those that are most important to the organization, and often most difficult to serve, he explained.
18F is an open-source team. We currently have hundreds of publicly available repositories, with dozens under active development. We’ve had numerous contributions from colleagues within government, and contributions from members of the public. But in the next few weeks, we are going to run an experiment: we want to contract for contributions. And we want to do it the 18F way. What’s the experiment? Specifically, we’re going to use our “micro-purchase” authority.
Information technology is everywhere. How we communicate, and how we share with one another has gone digital, saving paper, time, money, and making it easier to get information faster and more reliably. Forty-three years ago, when the Clean Water Act was enacted, things moved a little slower. But the significance and impact of this important law remains today. It has helped clean up our lakes and rivers, and ensure that Americans are drinking safe water so we can live active, healthy lives.
To promote crowdsourcing, one effective tool is, well, crowdsourcing. Today, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Federal Community of Practice for Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science (CCS) unveiled the Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing Toolkit. The toolkit contains information, resources, and best practices federal agencies can use to harness the power of public participation. Specifically, the toolkit provides: Process steps—An outline of five important steps agencies can use to plan, design and implement crowdsourcing or citizen science projects Case studies—Demonstrated success stories, benefits and challenges from other federal agencies that can inspire new projects or help in pitching ideas Map of U.
How well do you know your customers? There’s a new guide out from the Excellence In Government (EIG) Fellows Program to help you do just that. Led by the Partnership for Public Service, EIG is a federal government initiative to train future leaders. This year, three hundred federal employees took the EIG journey to learn about Values, Vision, Mission, Driving Results, Leading People, Leading Change, Building Partnership and Coalitions, Business Acumen, Synthesis and Celebration.
We recently polled the Customer Experience Community of Practice (CX-COP) to discover what kinds of training people needed most to improve customer experience at their agency. The most requested topic was measurement: specifically tools, analytics, and how to turn customer data into action. To learn how agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services use data to inform customer understanding and make program improvements, we invited Jon Booth, Director of Web and New Media at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), to speak to the CX-COP via a webinar on Using Customer Feedback to Improve HealthCare.
In 1992, Congress passed Public Law No: 102-481, which proclaimed the first full week in October as National Customer Service Week. Customer service is also a Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goal, tasking agencies to “deliver world-class customer services to citizens by making it faster and easier for individuals and businesses to complete transactions and have a positive experience with government.” Federal agencies are encouraged to participate in Customer Service Week, to share how you’re working to improve service, and to recognize your agency’s customer service stars.
In January, 18F Consulting announced a new kind of process for vendors to compete for software acquisition contracts. The Agile Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) process would be open to existing vendors on Schedule 70, and require vendors to submit a working prototype based on a public dataset—and then show their work in a publicly available git repository. A number of decision factors led to the request for information (RFI) and then the request for quotation (RFQ).
Customer experience is about making sure needs are met. It’s certainly not a new concept for business; every bookstore has a customer service section. Government agencies are slightly different though. Often people are driven to public services by need or regulation, not choice. Government traditionally didn’t need to court positive attention. The increasing prominence of digital communication and the ability to shine a light on perceived and real inabilities to meet needs means a renewed emphasis on customer service.
Help us celebrate the Everyday Heroes in our agencies during Customer Service Week, October 5-9, 2015. In 1992, Congress passed Public Law No: 102-481, which proclaimed the first full week in October as National Customer Service Week. The Principles and Practices Subgroup of the Customer Service Cross Agency Priority (CAP) Goal has started work on a Customer Service Week Toolkit which will feature sample social media posts, pictures to share on social media and agency websites, and posters to display in offices.
Customer Experience (CX) deserves a voice at an agency’s senior levels. Putting CX at the forefront of policy-making decisions will have the most positive impact for customers. Elevating CX is how the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) champions the 22 million applicants seeking $150 billion in education loans each year. Brenda Wensil, Chief Customer Experience Officer at FSA, shared her insights with DigitalGov University in a July 28, 2015, webinar about the establishment of the FSA CX Team.
Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goals prioritize activities that all agencies must tackle each year. An important CAP Goal for 2015 addresses customer service and compels federal agencies to improve the quality of service the public receives from the federal government. To build on the momentum of this goal, the government Customer Experience Community of Practice (CX-COP) was launched in early 2015. The CX-COP supports collaboration and sharing among government customer experience practitioners.
Who do you need to bring to the table to make a better world? In May, Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer of the United States, delivered the keynote address at the 2015 DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit. She encouraged attendees to find ways of unlocking potential through collaborations from both within and outside of government. “We have extraordinary teammates across government,” Smith said. “It’s one of the coolest things. I just came here in September from Silicon Valley.
To provide great customer service, bring your agency’s customers to the table. This is one of many insights recently offered by Stephanie Thum, Vice President of Customer Experience at the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Thum has previously written about customer experience for DigitalGov, including Three Ways to Evolve Your Agency’s Customer Mindset and the forward-looking Will 2016 Be the Federal Government’s ‘Year of the Customer?’ In May, Thum sat down with DigitalGov to dig deeper into the federal customer experience (CX) landscape.
Earlier this year, we published 15 Government Customer Service Trends for 2015. We’re halfway through the year now—how are these trends holding up? 1. Centralized Customer Offices A few agencies have created centralized customer offices, while others question the need for a single organization that focuses on the customer. As the public’s overall satisfaction with the federal government continues to fall, a single organization can monitor customer feedback from across the enterprise to identify and address problems with the customer experience (CX).
With the release of a new dashboard to measure best Web practices in the federal government and the establishment of a government-wide HTTPS Only Standard, the time to make the switch to HTTPS has arrived. Agencies have until December 31, 2016, to make the switch. The move to HTTPS is not only happening in government; it is also becoming the standard in industry as well. Firefox and Chrome have begun taking actions to phase out HTTP to make browsing more secure.
It seems that everyone these days is talking about “governance.” But what is it, really, and how can you make good governance usable in your agency? The federal government developed the Digital Government Strategy to deliver better Web services to the American people. The strategy is based on the notion of focusing on customers—the American people—and their needs in terms of providing access to high-quality digital government information and services anywhere, anytime, on any device.
Silicon Valley analyst Mary Meeker’s annual 2015 Internet Trends report has been released and is an exhaustive analysis of the world’s digital evolution (often mobile first driven) and how it is affecting business, culture and information. Previous years’ reports have tracked emerging tech from mobile to 3D printing, and this year is no different. Here are some of the key highlights from the report for government agencies and mobile-focused people:
The U.S. federal government is launching a new project to monitor how it’s doing at best practices on the Web. A sort of health monitor for the U.S. government’s websites, it’s called Pulse and you can find it at pulse.cio.gov. Pulse is a lightweight dashboard that uses the official .gov domain list to measure two things: Analytics: Whether federal executive branch domains are participating in the Digital Analytics Program (DAP) that powers analytics.
We recently sat down with Lisa Danzig, who’s leading work at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on the FY15 Cross Agency Priority (CAP) goal on Customer Service (CS). The CS CAP goal aims to help agencies deliver world-class customer service to citizens that’s on par with leading private sector services by streamlining transactions, setting customer service standards for high impact services, and making it faster and easier to complete transactions with government online.
Design research isn’t rocket science. But for many of us in the federal government, it can seem daunting and unfamiliar. We’re here to to help demystify the process of design research for those of you ready to wade into the waters. We’ve both done our fair share of design researching at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) over the past year. It hasn’t been easy—we’ve worked under itty bitty budgets and crazy timelines.
Dennis Snow and Jeanne Bliss have always been the customer experience (CX) authorities in my mind. Dennis’s Lessons from the Mouse and Jeanne’s Chief Customer Officer were two of the first books I read that described what the practice of customer experience looked like in the halls of Fortune 500 companies like Lands End and Microsoft, as well as on Main Street at Walt Disney World. Years ago when I first flipped through the pages of those books, I realized that I was a budding CX practitioner, even though my private sector titles were more akin to business development, client relations, and service quality.
It’s been a while, but in previous posts, I described what we’ve learned from operating StudentAid.gov, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid website created to educate students and borrowers about the federal student aid programs and process and help them make informed decisions about financing college and career school. We first released the site in 2012, but we haven’t sat still yet! The plan has always been to create new and integrate current features that exist on other FSA websites.
When focusing on customer experience, we all know that we need to truly understand our customer if we expect to provide them with an enjoyable experience. In an effort to do so, organizations often jump right to a survey to identify their customers’ needs and wants. While surveys are a great first step to understanding customers, they’re not the only step. The most you should expect from a well-crafted survey is detailed knowledge in the form of hard data indicating where to conduct further research.
[metaslider id=274602] Digital innovators from across government were asked to think of technology as digital service for their country at today’s DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit. The theme of this year’s Summit was “open.” The agenda was packed with presentations about how “opening” data, content, contracts and talent makes digital citizen services better, more effective or even cheaper. A diverse array of topics were addressed, including privacy and identity management, 3D printing, and agile methodology.
Surveys are a great way to gain valuable insight into your customers’ true interests and needs. With the abundant number of survey tools available, it’s almost too easy to quickly put together a survey and send it out to your target audience. All too often, organizations will be in a hurry to get their survey out and will send out a long, wordy introductory message for a survey, or conversely, will not provide enough context.
The federal government is increasingly focused on designing and delivering citizen-centered services with enhanced experiences that deliver value to customers. These ideals are established in the Presidential Management Agenda Customer Service Cross-Agency Priority Goal, the Digital Government Strategy, and various open government activities. Designing services to be responsive to be life events that drive public needs is a powerful way to deliver citizen-centered value. What is a “life event?” Life events are events that have a significant impact in a citizen’s/stakeholder’s life and that warrant government awareness or involvement.
Customer experience (CX) improvement projects come in many forms, but evolving an agency’s entire mindset to be customer-focused requires far more in the way of commitment, time, staff and organizational patience. As the senior CX lead for a U.S. government agency and an advisory committee member to the President’s Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) goal on customer service, 100 percent of my focus since joining Export-Import Bank from the private sector has been on evolving the customer strategy for Ex-Im Bank, and helping other agencies do the same.
As the product manager of Sites, my job is to make sure that our service delivers what we offer: provide an easy, fast and cost‐effective solution for federal agencies that want to create a secure government website to reach the public. With 40 websites that are currently live or in active development, our program is constantly evolving. Our roadmap is filled with milestones designed to improve our service, address our customers’ needs, and keep our platform up to date.
This month, our round up focuses on customer experience (CX). As I was rounding up the CX events and articles we’ve shared on DigitalGov over the past year, I realized that CX touches all of the work we do. From Web to mobile to contact centers and social media, we need to not only be aware of our customers’ experiences but also respond quickly and make changes that will enhance their experiences.
Recently, Forrester Research analyst Leah Buley wrote a blog post and report that reminded me of our “what’s the diff?” article on customer experience vs. user experience. In them, she describes the difference between customer experience professionals (CX) and user experience professionals (UX). A Forrester survey found that about 40% of the time, CX and UX are formalized functions in a corporation. That’s good news, but they are only a joint operation about 10% of the time.
“The customer is king.” “The customer is always right.” Regardless of your feelings on these age-old customer service adages, the fact remains: we’re all serving someone. No matter what corner of the federal digital space you occupy, you are connecting with people, and the outcome of those connections matters. To recognize the importance of these relationships, DigitalGov is focusing on customer service as our May monthly theme. There are numerous ways to look at the customer experience and many digital professionals may ask themselves, how is it different from user experience?
Thirteen years in digital is an eon, and on the eve of its 13th birthday, we at USA.gov found ourselves reckoning with a mid-life crisis. In the thirteen years since Firstgov.gov was launched (and ten years for FirstGov en Español), the sheer volume and sophistication of government websites has exploded. We’ve seen Web customers evolve from timid and curious users to adroit searchers who can download music, read a newspaper, and respond to a text message simultaneously—using only their thumbs.
The federal government has caught the customer experience bug. We want our customers to complete their tasks with minimal effort using a streamlined process. If they need personal help, we want it to be quick, polite, and provide the best answer. But that personal help frequently requires a team of highly skilled, dedicated people—a contact center. When people call to ask how much it will or should cost their agency to have a contact center, I can’t give them an answer.
DigitalGov University has added podcasts to our suite of offerings on DigitalGov, featuring interviews and discussions with leaders in the DigitalGov community. For the first edition, we talked to Diane Devera, “Voice of the IVR” for the USA.gov Contact Center. In this 10 minute discussion with Jacob Parcell, Manager of Mobile Programs, Devera discusses several considerations about interactive voice response (IVR) for federal contact centers, including: Why are IVRs important for government contact centers?
For more than 40 years, Warren Snaider has been working at the General Services Administration providing government information to the public. A Senior Federal Information Specialist, Snaider has witnessed government contact centers evolve as technology has changed the way people communicate and access information. Snaider first joined the Federal Information Center in Sacramento in 1972. His was one of 41 centers across the United States where people could walk into the lobby of a federal building and ask questions.
This story begins with a post about reverse mortgages, but don’t worry: we won’t go into the world of complex home loans. Rather, this is a story about how one federal agency is partnering with another to amplify its content and reach millions of people online—and why more agencies should do the same. Many federal agencies create valuable digital content, but distributing that content at scale can be a challenge.
We are busting at the seams with excitement because the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit is less than a month away! Today we are announcing the working agenda and confirmed speakers. The Summit, which will be taking place on Thursday, May 21, 2015 from 9 am-1 pm, has an all-star lineup that was put together with help from you and the Summit Sounding Board. This timely program includes:
Your audience is not homogenous. No matter the agency, target audiences are not only diverse, they are diverse on a multitude of factors. Recently, evolving trends in multicultural marketing have gained attention as organizations adjust their marketing and outreach strategies to meet 21st century realities. Marketers who recognize the need for a coherent, effective multicultural strategy have turned to the Total Market Approach (TMA). A coalition of marketing agencies, clients and associations led by AHAA: The Voice of Hispanic Marketing released an industry-sanctioned definition of TMA in September.
It can be easy to forget that customer experience (CX) improvement efforts within the government sphere aren’t limited to surveys, journey maps, analytics, big data, apps, and technology. Watching Export-Import Bank’s Annual Conference come together, I’m reminded of the fundamental role that interpersonal communication plays in improving customer experience, from the front line of our unique agency. The conference is happening April 23rd-24th at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.
The Government Contact Center Council (G3C), led by GSA’s Tonya Beres, has been working with DigitalGov University to host events for the contact center community across the federal government. This year they hosted events and posted articles that will help you get a contact center up and running, make up-to-date changes to meet 21st century expectations, and incorporate new features like adaptive content, chat, and handling social media inquiries.
Sign up now to watch the DigitalGov Summit from the comfort of your desk! We are excited to announce that although we’ve sold out in-person attendance for the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit, we have just opened up registration to attend virtually. Virtual attendance will be an awesome way to experience the event with extras not offered to in-person attendees. Bernetta Reese from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be our host and MC for virtual attendees.
At the end of last year, DigitalGov posted an article predicting that 2016 would be the year of the customer. Stephanie Thum, Vice President of Customer Experience at Export-Import Bank, looked at the great strides made in federal customer service in 2014 and called it the year of “planting seeds.” She then pointed to 2015 as the year of “germination and nurturing.” Our DigitalGov team decided to go to the root of a lot of agency customer service: contact centers.
The Pew Research Center released a deep research dive into “U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015” that provided three big ideas and data points for government agencies to consider when planning their digital strategies. More than 2/3 of Americans have smartphones; many of those are mobile first or mobile only Internet users. The report detailed that 6 in 10 Americans own a smartphone (64%), and 2 in 10 Americans now access the Internet primarily through their mobile phone (25%).
Like private sector organizations, U.S. public sector organizations have experienced shifts in how they use both the Internet and social media to interact with the public. The mid-1990s onwards saw an increase in the number of websites helping individual members of the public learn more about various public sector organizations and initiatives directly from the organizational source, instead of having to go in-person to a library or view microfiche.
Here’s another other opportunity to show DigitalGov innovators what you got! The spring Digital Citizen Services Summit will host an expo, like we did in 2014, where you can showcase your program or service. This way participants will get a chance to meet the people behind innovative programs across the federal government and explore collaborations and knowledge sharing with you. We are inviting you to submit information about the project you want to showcase for a chance to exhibit.
On Wednesday, March 11, FedRAMP unveiled a redesigned FedRAMP.gov. The new site focuses on user experience that fosters a better understanding of FedRAMP from basic knowledge, to in-depth program requirements and includes the launch of a training program. User experience is at the heart of the website redesign. Using feedback from customer interviews, the new FedRAMP.gov is easily navigable and helps visitors: Understand FedRAMP and its strategic direction Quickly find current templates and other key documents Access educational opportunities and information on FedRAMP events The FedRAMP team addressed these objectives and many others developing the website.
Today, people rely heavily on insecure and inefficient means to access federal government applications to conduct business (i.e., they depend on usernames and passwords to log into federal agency services online). Users are required to create and manage several online accounts for different applications, which can become a nuisance, difficult to manage, and creates administrative burden for the organization. Additionally, with the abundance of these weak credentials (i.e., usernames and passwords that are easy to hack and difficult to trust), organizations – including the federal government – are left with minimal confidence in a user’s identity.
In 1995, the World Wide Web, which had been fairly niche up until then, attracted mainstream attention. What followed were 20 years of business and social innovations in how we humans chose to use the web at work, school, at home, and with our friends. The web and its “Web 2.0” successor allowed us to access, provide, remix, and exchange information in ways previously limited by time and space.
The increasing presence of big data and all things digital will require the federal government to hire more techies. The skills brought by techies will help the federal government, but we also must consider that success in the federal government will require more than the skills they bring. The techies may be from the private sector and not completely understand the nuances of working in a federal agency.
We released the United States Public Participation Playbook this week, a new open resource agencies can use to evaluate and build better programs that give a voice to the people they serve—and the response was fantastic. Public servants and citizens around the world have shared it, and already are contributing new ideas that build from the work of the team of 70 federal leaders, more than a dozen engagement experts, and citizens themselves who worked together to launch it.
Innovative wearables, stronger wifi and more 3D printing have been among the many projections for the future of mobile in 2015. Whatever comes to pass, we can be certain that the anytime, anywhere user will develop new habits and desires based on new trends. Government must accelerate its customer service approach with anytime, anywhere efforts to keep up. Here’s what I see agencies will have to do to keep up and–just maybe get ahead–in 2015.
The General Services Administration’s (GSA’s) focus on customer experience can be traced back to its inception on July 1, 1949, when President Truman created a new federal agency to manage and store government records, handle emergency preparedness, and stockpile strategic supplies for wartime. While our customer focus has stayed with us, GSA’s mission has morphed and expanded to include real estate, contracting, technology, and much more. With such a wide and varied portfolio, it’s often hard for customers to navigate all the programs and services we offer, so we’re making some changes to improve customer experience at GSA.
Running a government website or social media account is complex: while trying to meet your agency’s mission goals and your customers’ needs, you also have to keep track of issues like ethics, information security, privacy, and accessibility. It’s enough to make your head spin. Luckily, no one … errr … no online communications person … is an island: we have colleagues whose expertise neatly fills each of those niches.
With public expectations at an all-time high, and trust in government nearing all-time lows, agencies need to step up their game. Veterans, seniors, students, taxpayers—all Americans—deserve the best service from their government. Here are our predictions for how the federal government will improve customer service in the coming year: 1. Many agencies will create a Customer Office that reports to the head of the agency. In most government agencies, no one owns the overall customer experience.
In January on DigitalGov, we’ll highlight pieces looking at trends we see coming in the digital government space in 2015 and beyond. We have lined up articles around: Customer Service Data 3D Printing at NIH and NASA Accessibility Mobile, and Training. Check back Monday, when we kick-off the month with 15 Government Customer Service Trends. And you can look at some of our most recent monthly theme articles in: crowdsourcing, user experience, and mobile.
As we round out 2014, we’re reflecting on the exciting year we’ve had at DigitalGov since we launched in February. Our mission is to share information and resources from agencies across the federal government that are working in the digital space, and highlight the services and communities that can help you meet your digital government goals. We look forward to bringing you more great content in 2015, but first we wanted to highlight the most popular articles on DigitalGov this year.
QR codes, apps about whales, bullying and railroad crossings, challenges of responsive Web design and mobilizing charts and tables were the things you were most interested in this year. We publish mobile trends every Tuesday and feature a government mobile app every Thursday on the mobile channel of DigitalGov. In addition, we do recaps of MobileGov Community of Practice events and other community articles in between. This year we published 281 articles.
In December of 2004, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued the first Policies for Federal Public Websites. Over the past decade, we’ve seen technology completely transform how government delivers information and services to the public. On this 10-year anniversary, we’re taking a walk down memory lane to recap some of the pivotal moments that have shaped today’s digital government landscape. Year Activity 2004 February—Facebook launches (for colleges; opens to the public 2007) March—Interagency Committee on Government Information (ICGI) convenes to draft Web recommendations June—ICGI issues Recommendations for Federal Web Policies July—ICGI becomes the Web Content Management Working Group (predecessor to Federal Web Managers Council) August—HHS publishes its seminal Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines (foundation for Usability.
The new third draft of the U.S. Public Participation Playbook continues to incorporate changes proposed from more than 100 suggestions submitted via public comment aimed at measuring the performance and improving the development of government programs. It takes the 13 initial “plays” from rough brainstorming and collaborations to a more refined, action-focused presentation that will help contributors understand and identify opportunities to contribute, based on feedback. The U.
Smartphones are changing how organizations do business—they are more than just smart Web browsers. As I noted last week, purchases from mobile phones have dramatically increased during the holiday shopping season. The infographic from IfByPhone demonstrates how people are using their smartphones not only to buy things and research products, but also to open emails and access social media. Users also still call organizations on the go. 87% of smartphone and tablet owners use their devices to shop.
In May 2015, we’re hosting the second DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit. This round we are looking to you—federal innovators across government—to help build the agenda. We want to get you the information you need, ignite discussion, foster sharing, build capacity, even get you to challenge and debate each other in the name of delivering better digital services. So, we’ve set up a crowdsourcing platform where you can suggest presentation ideas and vote for your favorites.
As part of its ongoing effort to enhance customer experience for current and prospective exporters, the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. (Ex-Im Bank) is unveiling a new and improved customer contact center that includes an improved 1-800 number experience, along with a new email response system. The contact center is also poised to launch new online chat capabilities early in the new year. “Our focus is on our customers—the thousands of U.
As 2014 draws to a close, agencies across the federal government are beginning to think about what the customer experience (CX) landscape will look like in the years ahead. There is little doubt that 2014 saw the government make great strides on this front, setting in motion a number of initiatives that will help ensure that CX will soon take root as a central management discipline across the Executive Branch.
There are many ways to apply crowdfunding in the government space. This case study highlights the U.S. Department of State’s utilization of an online crowdfunding platform (CFP) to launch the Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund 2.0 (AEIF 2.0). Through this fundraising platform, exchange program alumni were able to work on innovative solutions to the world’s toughest challenges. Over 30 projects from around the world, including from the United States, were selected for AEIF 2.
No Mobile Gov Month on DigitalGov would be complete without an update on the Internet of Things. Regardless if you’re talking wearables, smart homes, sensors or any other connected device, your current mobile approaches will be impacted—as will your social media, user experience and data strategies. When we last visited the topic in April, discussion in the federal government was minimal. That’s no longer the case. Just this month there were multiple panels about it at the Tech-In-State: Mobile Diplomacy event and the Federal Trade Commision (FTC) was very active at the 2nd Annual Internet of Things Global Summit where FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez gave a keynote about challenges around IOT.
They say that customer experience (CX) is the new marketing. People will tell their friends about their experience with your agency, and social media makes it easy to broadcast whether the experience was easy and enjoyable, or terrible. In 1992, Congress proclaimed the first full week in October as National Customer Service Week, and as we close out Customer Service Week 2014, here’s a recap of some great customer-service-related articles published on DigitalGov.
U.S. Hispanics are ahead of the digital curve, according to an analysis of strategies of leading brands and forward-thinking marketers by Lisa Gevelber, Vice President of Americas Marketing. As we’ve noted before, Hispanics not only lead in adoption of new devices, they are also power users of mobile. The report highlights a few categories supporting Gevelber’s observations: The average Hispanic spends more than eight hours watching online video each month, over 90 minutes longer than the U.
The Office of the Federal Register’s mission “informs citizens of their rights and obligations, documents the actions of Federal agencies, and provides a forum for public participation in the democratic process.” As the winner of the Bright Idea Award, FederalRegister.gov is clear and easy to use, but most citizens rarely frequent it. More frequently they start searching for information on Google or on agency websites, where it is more difficult to discover pertinent rules and regulations.
Outdated development practices and narrow interpretations of acquisition regulations have prevented the federal government from taking advantage of technologies that can help agencies deliver better digital services to the public. OMB is developing new tools to help you take advantage of existing procurement authorities in the FAR, or the Federal Acquisition Regulation, the nearly 2,000 page bible that guides federal purchasing, including: TechFAR Handbook (highlights flexibilities in the FAR) Innovative Contract Case Studies (describes how agencies are getting more innovation per tax dollar, under existing laws and regs) Take a look at these tools and share them with your contracting officers.
Six months ago, we launched this DigitalGov.gov platform to support federal agencies in delivering 21st century digital services and information to the public. It seems a good time to share some of the thinking that went into the development of the platform, and what we’ve learned so far. Looking back, we knew we had great content for digital innovators. Here at the Center for Digital Government at GSA, we created the go-to references for federal agencies around Web, mobile, social media, challenges and prizes, and were growing API content.
Just like the private sector, government agencies frequently encounter new rules, regulations, policies, and financial realities that impact the way we do business. Of course, change is never easy—and when customers feel the ripple effects of those changes, their satisfaction with an agency can waver. That’s why, during times of change, customer experience leaders should reach for a fundamental, yet frequently overlooked tool in their toolbox: communication. Here are three essential to-dos that should be at the center of your communication plan.
Since April of 2011 when President Obama signed Executive Order 13571 mandating agencies improve the quality of service they give to the public, agencies have been working through strategies to best fulfill this task. We at GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies (OCSIT) were no exception. Back in September of 2013, we wrote a blog about how important it is for a Customer Experience (CX) Program to have shared principles and values, as well as understanding who our customers are and their expectations.
Live Web chat is an important component of good customer service. People like having the option of talking with an agent in real-time without having to pick up the phone. While live chat is not widespread, several agencies have shown great success in serving the public through this alternative channel. At a recent Government Contact Center Council meeting, colleagues from HHS (cancer.gov), Education (StudentAid.gov), and GSA (USA.gov) shared their challenges and successes in implementing and managing Web chat.
The job of the American Battle Monument Commission (AMBC) is to manage all overseas cemeteries and memorials from WWI and WWII. There are over 200,000 veterans who are buried or memorialized at these cemeteries. When ABMC began thinking about releasing a native mobile application, they had two primary objectives: 1) The app should be able to serve as a “tour guide” to the millions of visitors who visit the memorials in person.
Once a federal agency releases an API, there are several ways they can be used in apps. The most common method is through hackathons. Hackathons are where an agency or agencies present the API(s) and invite developers to create prototype apps. The apps are then presented to subject matter experts for suggestions on creating the final app. There are many government hackathons on a variety of public issues. Visit Challenge.
The Census Bureau recently released a “machine-readable dataset discovery service” that lists 41 Census data sets. It’s in spreadsheet form and gives a description of the datasets along with links to the API and developer documentation. What makes the discovery service machine readable is that’s based on Project Open Data’s “Common Core Metadata Schema” that uses a standard way to describe and index government information sources. The discovery service makes it easier for developers to find and mix different APIs together to create sophisticated apps.
Mobile devices are moving closer to the center of the social universe, according to this Sproutsocial article. Platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter are overwhelmingly used on the go. Comscore predicts that there will be increasing monetization via social in the coming years. In the banking industry, where data shows many people have stopped going to brick and mortar banks, tying mobile and social together is critical. Organizations are increasingly adopting a SoLoMo approach in which they leverage the interplay between social, local and mobile.
Are you having trouble getting training or professional development opportunities? Federal employees can gain access to a variety of professional development opportunities and work on digital projects across the government through the Open Opportunities program. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Mha-SnOfzo&w=600] Open Opportunities are tasks and projects that help you develop and strengthen skills, work with others across agencies to get stuff done and break down silos. Mike Pulsifer from the Department of Labor says Open Opportunities provided him the chance to do “really interesting work that cuts across the silos of government.
Customer service. Customer satisfaction. Improving the customer experience. These buzzwords have become well-trodden territory among government strategists as a new wave of agencies attempt to ignite—or reignite—a focus on customers. Of course, putting customers first is a worthy goal. But what, exactly, do we mean when we use words like “service” and “satisfaction”? These terms are easily understood in the abstract; however, precisely because of their broad, abstract nature, they can also become roadblocks for pinpointing the specific metrics—and sparking the right strategic conversations—that lead to true customer-oriented improvements.
Facebook is now the first social media platform to start verifying all federal government pages with their signature blue checkmark using the Federal Social Media Registry API. The Federal Social Media Registry provides the singular source that allows social media platforms to quickly collect real government accounts—emphasizing the critical need to ensure the trust, quality and security of citizen engagement. When the public searches for the new Central Intelligence Agency Facebook account, many different accounts pop up—but only one of them is managed by the actual CIA.
As government innovators, we work to improve public services every day. In essence we are already in a public private partnership. But how can your agency capitalize on existing public private partnerships to engage citizens and enhance services? Four panelists from across government shared their public private partnerships success stories at the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit last Friday. The three other panels were on performance analysis, customer service across channels, and inter-agency work.
During the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit last Friday, customer service experts from across government came together on a panel to share what customer service means to them and their organization and specific ways they leverage it. The other panels were on performance analysis, public private partnerships, and inter-agency work. The panelists spoke about the strategies they use to integrate multi-channel customer service and the organizational barriers they’ve encountered. The panelists acknowledged that while the the government, as a whole, has room for improvement in providing truly integrated cross-channel customer service, leadership is beginning to recognize the importance and cost-savings, not to mention happy customers, it brings.
At the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit last Friday, Jacob Parcell, Manager, Mobile Programs at the General Services Administration led a panel on the challenges and benefits of Inter-Agency work. The other panels were on performance analysis, customer service across channels, and public private partnerships. “The challenges are real,” said Parcell, who quoted President Obama’s famous salmon quandary: “The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they’re in saltwater,” Obama said.
At the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit last Friday, more than 200 innovators across government and industry came together to share how digital services can improve citizen services and reduce cost. Four panels convened to share information on performance analysis, customer service across channels, public private partnerships and inter-agency work. We have a recap of the Performance Analysis Panel below. How do you show and track performance in 21st century digital government?
We had a GREAT DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit today. There were more than 200 digital innovators from across government and industry working to build the 21st century government the public expects. The four panels focused on performance analysis, customer service across channels, inter-agency work, and public private partnerships. Here’s what you missed in a short highlight video. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIWwnomPxo4&w=600]
In our final video interview with Sarah Crane of USA.gov, she talks about adaptive content and how it works with APIs. Missed Part 1 and Part 2? Watch them to find out how USA.gov dealt with their inconsistent customer experience and content sprawl. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=giK-RsHjA4c&w=600] Interested in learning more about adaptive content and content modeling? Check out the new Structured Content Models and the training on Event Model Creation. We’ve created an editorial theme calendar to coordinate content each month around one focus.
Have a DigitalGov success?—published an API? Got buy-in from leadership? Changed a part of your customer-service paradigm? Developed a cool dashboard? Got the app out the door? Heck! Have you prototyped a wearable, drivable or flyable? Have a DigitalGov opinion?—think we should be focusing more or less on something? Have an idea on how to improve development? Want to share your digital gov mantra? Internet of things? You are doing and thinking a lot, and we have a place for a few of you smarties to share with other agencies.
Part 2 of our interview with Sarah Crane from USA.gov shares how the USA.gov team is tackling content sprawl with the USA.gov API. Missed Part 1 last week? You’ll want to watch it before next Tuesday, when we will publish Part 3 where Sarah talks about adaptive content. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtXsAIoRqb4&w=600]
We won’t build the government of the 21st century by drawing within the lines. We don’t have to tell you the hard work of building a digital government doesn’t exist in a vacuum or a bubble. Show us social media without mobile, Web without data and user experience without APIs. You can’t? That’s right—in reality, digital government intersects and cuts across boundaries every day in order to deliver the digital goods.
Imagine this: You just found a great online tool that can help you do your federal job 100% better. You’re all ready to download it and start conquering the world when someone asks, “Have you checked the Terms of Service?” You’re not sure what they’re talking about, what a Terms of Service is, or why you need one. Let’s answer this and more in our Terms of Service Flowchart (click the image to the right to download your own PDF copy of this chart for reference) and our Terms of Service FAQ:
Next in our video blog series, Sarah Crane from USA.gov shares how multiple product lines have led to an inconsistent customer experience and how new functional teams are helping them become more efficient. And check back next Monday to hear how the team is tackling content sprawl with the USA.gov API. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lObSjX82aBg&w=600]
Two years ago, federal agencies were set on a fast track to create a 21st century digital government. The Federal Digital Strategy served up a heaping set of deliverables on a tight timeline. Agencies opened data sets, built mobile apps and websites, published APIs, created and updated digital governance structures, and joined with other agencies in measuring digital services performance. Last May, as the final deadlines were met, some asked, “What’s next?
Smartphones, tablets, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, not to mention your agency’s desktop website, are all clamoring for information, but sliced and diced in different ways. How can you make your content adaptive for efficient delivery to all of these mediums? Structured content and open content models can help you create content that is platform-agnostic, format-free, and device-independent. We’ve created two open and structured content models that we want you to use and adapt.
“In business, words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises, but only performance is reality.” Harold S. Geneen As government contact center managers, we dream of having contact center contractors who regularly exceed our performance expectations. One way to motivate your contractor to excel is by including financial incentives/disincentives directly into your contact center contract. The concept for incentives/disincentives is a simple one—pay more when your contractor over performs; pay less when your contractor under performs.
Need Help Responding to Facebook & Twitter Questions? Use Your Contact Center Customer Service Experts
Government agencies are always looking for better ways to connect with their audiences while making more effective use of existing (or shrinking) resources. To that end, many agencies—including ours, the National Cancer Institute—have begun to use social media platforms to help serve the communications mission. As these tools have become more widely used, NCI’s Contact Center has become an essential partner in our social media efforts. For those who don’t know us, NCI is the largest of the 27 Institutes and Centers within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
AIDS.gov convenes and is guided by the Federal HIV/AIDS Web Council. The Council includes Web/new media leads, subject matter experts, and communication leads representing HIV programs across the U.S. government. Together we use new media to promote federal programs, policies and resources related to HIV. In March, members heard from four key federal leaders about how they are using technology to reach the goals of their programs. Below we provide highlights from each speaker’s remarks.
Social Media tools, trends and algorithms come and go, but federal managers continue to see improvements in their digital engagement initiatives when they put citizens at the center of their programs. It’s common to hear that government social media lags behind the private sector especially when held to standards that don’t consider government’s unique needs and goals. Yet, even as marketers call for exit strategies from some platforms, many of our agencies see an increase in their performance even without paid promotions because of effective engagement strategies.
As government contact centers, we all face financial and technological constraints in our pursuit to improve the customer experience. One challenge faced by many contact centers is staffing limitations to handle the volume of incoming customer traffic. There are barely enough employees to operate phones, let alone work on meeting or exceeding the organizational customer satisfaction performance goals. One initiative that was important to the City of Philadelphia’s 311 non-emergency contact center was the successful collection of customer feedback and coaching our employees to improve the customers’ experience with each transaction.
“PolicyOps” is a better way to create and implement government policies and programs through cutting-edge data analytics and new collaboration methods. PolicyOps (“Policy” plus “Operations”) is a new proposal for improving policy making and policy implementation. Based on a cutting-edge IT management method, DevOps (“Development” plus “Operations”), PolicyOps has two major concepts. First, closer collaboration and coordination between policy designers and policy implementers. Second, a single view of the policy environment reality agreed on by the policy designers and policy implementers.
The White House launched a hub for consumer-facing tools across the federal government, and they want to feature your agency’s tools that can help make people’s lives easier. As of now, they are featuring tools from these agencies: Department of Education’s College Scorecard Department of Energy’s Hybrid Car Calculator & Home Energy Yardstick Department of Agriculture’s Local Farmer’s Market Map Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Credit Card Agreement Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Litigation Resource Center Check out the tools and let them know about the tools that should be added.
The Internet of Things, a concept approaching reality, is best described as objects (think appliance, trees, etc.) in the world equipped with identifying devices or machine-readable identifiers that make them connected to the Web. This handy infographic charts the history and development of the idea and perhaps this washing machine could be a roadmap to the future. The fourth annual Internet of Things Dayis Wednesday, April 9th. It was created by the Internet of Things Councilto encourage interested people around the world to connect by hosting and attending meetups, hackathons, and spending time with others to help jump-start important categories of conversation and collaboration around this technology.
Global mobile data traffic almost doubled in 2013 according to Cisco’s recent Traffic Forecast Update. There are a number of other mobile data traffic trends in the report, but here are five trends we wanted to highlight today: Global mobile data traffic grew 81 percent in 2013. Global mobile data traffic reached 1.5 exabytes per month at the end of 2013, up from 820 petabytes per month at the end of 2012.
All of us want to improve the content and information we provide to the public, but we’re intimidated by where to start: Does our website provide clear content? Is the best information hidden on pages a few layers down? What should we tweet about this month? What are customers saying about our information? The best source of this information is a resource right in your agency–your agency’s Contact Center.
There’s tons of great work and innovations happening in federal agencies, and it is happening fast. From mobile, to social, to user experience, to APIs, to data and codesharing, agencies are embracing the 21st century citizen expectations and working to deliver anytime, anywhere, any device services and information to the public. How do we tap into this agency expertise? Learn from others’ hits and misses? Identify roadmaps, sample documents, tools?
Children’s mobile media use has doubled and in some cases tripled in the last two years, according an eSchool News report of a study by Common Sense Media. Here are the other key findings: Roughly twice as many children use mobile media today than in 2011. “Traditional” screen media use, such as television and video games, has decreased by more than 30 minutes per day. Children still spend most of their media time watching television, but viewing habits have changed.
If you have ever visited census.gov, you know that sorting through the vast array of information about America’s people, places and economy can be daunting. Based on customer research and feedback we collected and analyzed over time, we heard loud and clear that both search and navigation of our site could be much better. Visitors to census.gov should not have to work so hard to find the information and statistics they are looking for to complete their research, personal projects or business needs.
Stephanie Thum from Ex-Im Bank kicks off our video blog with an introduction to customer experience. Stephanie is Vice President of Customer Experience at Ex-Im Bank, a U.S. government agency which serves as the official export credit agency of the United States. We had a chance to sit down and talk with Stephanie about customer experience and why leadership support at the highest levels is so important to successful customer experience programs.
There’s no way to sugar-coat it. It’s that time again. Tax time. And just in (tax)time, the Internal Revenue Service has updated its handy IRS2Go Mobile App for iPhone/iTouch and Android phones. The 2014 version of the app offers a more elegant and streamlined visual experience — and a few convenient new features including: The Refund Status tab now has a “status tracker” for users to see the status of their tax returns.
Piggybacking on one of my earlier posts, People are Crazy about Mobile, I’m going to talk about “Distracted Walking.” Who among us hasn’t walked and texted or checked Facebook or Twitter on our smartphones, but have bumped into someone or something while texting on your smartphone? I know I am guilty of that. Maybe you’ve seen this viral video of a woman who, distracted by Facebook on her phone, fell into a fountain.
If the silos and barriers that separated our programs are smashed, what could we do to realize the full potential of innovation in public service? Whether you’re a citizen who needs better access to services, an entrepreneur looking to spark innovation in the marketplace, or a public servant who wants to get your mission done more effectively and efficiently — there have never been more opportunities to achieve these through social media in government.
_This post was originally published on the IDEA Lab blog by Read Holman, HHS Innovation Advisor to the Chief Technology Officer and an Intrapreneur working in the HHS IDEA Lab._ Launched last year in “beta” by Secretary Sebelius, HHS Ignite supports early-stage projects that can be completed in tight time frames. Ignite is part of HHS’s IDEA Lab, which was established to improve how the Department delivers on its mission and promote advances in organizational management.
It’s been a busy few months negotiating Terms of Service on behalf of the federal government, and we’re happy to announce CrowdHall and Tint are now available and that the Tumblr agreement has been updated for the first time in almost 2 years.CrowdHall logo CrowdHall allows you to open an online town hall in a short amount of time, in order to host public or private Q&A sessions between a large number of people and up to five hosts.
A recent FedTech Magazine article asked, “When There Are No Barriers to Technology, How Can the Government Innovate?” We thought we’d take up the challenge and let you know how government uses innovations from digital communities to grow a social media education and training program that provides more opportunities than ever for agencies to share, learn and measurably improve our programs for citizens. And by more we mean almost four times more with the same resources.
Digital Marketing Evangelist and analytics guru Avinash Kaushik recently published a fascinating article on Six Visual Solutions To Complex Digital Marketing/Analytics Challenges. The article is especially relevant to government organizations, because it talks about the importance of dynamic vs. static content. Government agencies tend to have a LOT of static content on our websites… but once someone has read an article on your site, will they ever come back? How can we draw in new readers, and re-engage past visitors to return?
The Government of Canada (GC) is retiring the traditional news release format in favour of a more digital-friendly product that makes the key messages of announcements clearer, quick facts more accessible and integrates more effectively with social media channels. The old style release – which hasn’t changed in over 50 years – disappeared on December 31, 2013. Gone with it are the dense blocks of text that make it hard to read, the use of long titles in headlines and leads and the use of complex jargon.
Customer experience (CX) is an emerging area of focus within government. My role as Vice President of Customer Experience at the Export-Import Bank speaks to this reality. Our agency’s customers and partners consist of U.S. exporters, financial services institutions, insurance brokers and foreign buyers of U.S. products and services. All play a key role in facilitating U.S. exports, toward the creation of U.S. jobs, as outlined in our agency’s charter.
Using contact centers to deliver digital services is an emerging area in government. Due to the growth of online services, centers receive more attention and represent an important touch point for customers. When you need to speak directly with someone to get help or resolve an issue, it must be a good experience. This reflects on all channels associated with that brand. Timeliness of resolving your problem, question or request.
1. Meet all Laws, Requirements, Policies, and Directives for Federal Contact Centers Understand and follow all Privacy, Security, Disability, and Service Contract Act requirements. 2. Use Performance Metrics to Influence Business Rules and Drive Improvements Develop Key Performance Indicators/Metrics (see Performance Goals). CSLIC could be used as a start. 3. Develop and Use a Comprehensive Quality Assurance Program Monitor quality. Use data to provide feedback to website/content team.
Today we want to tell you about the federal agency trends we saw this year in the development of public facing mobile products. Digital Government Strategy drove Mobile Gov Development Digital Government Strategy milestone 7.2 required agencies to implement two public facing mobile products in May. The White House highlighted these agency mobile product implementations. Responsive Design Proliferated. During the summer and fall a number of agencies like the Department of State, Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, USA.
Before you can create your customer experience (CX) strategy, you have to answer the key question: Who are your customers? Consider the concept that among the groups you interact with internally, you could be their customer, they could be your customer, or you could be partners. In our office, we have two organizations that support our programs: a business office and the internal technology support organization. Our business office includes personnel, contracting, budget, space, etc.
We have long believed that “governments learn best from other governments” and encourage far-ranging discussions with experts from other countries, as well as state and local governments. An example of this came to fruition when Michael Bracken, creator and director of the United Kingdom’s Government Digital Service, spoke to a cadre of Presidential Innovation Fellows and others in the GSA auditorium. Bracken is in charge of using the new and ground-breaking gov.
Why Invest in a Content Management System? Does it take too long to update and post digital content? Do you lack consistent branding across your website(s)? Is outdated, redundant content leading to a poor customer experience? Does your agency website show up too far down in search results? Are you re-creating the same content for different platforms such as Web or mobile? A content management system (CMS) can address these issues and significantly improve how your agency delivers and manages digital information—positively impacting your bottom line.
Every year, one of our office’s biggest projects is to prepare the Information Sharing Environment Annual Report to the Congress. This report examines the progress of Congress’s mandate in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 to develop a better environment of terrorism-related information sharing. It’s a bigger and bigger PDF every year, but this year we created a web version as well. We used Bootstrap to build a simple site for the report, inspired by the Digital Government Strategy.
Security, consolidation, cloud services and enterprise portfolio management top the list of critical state CIO priorities in 2014, according to state information technology leaders surveyed by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO). The prioritized rankings of strategies and technologies reflect voting by state CIOs and are available for download at www.nascio.org/publications/ This year, NASCIO’s annual top 10 ranking shows IT security strategies and tools are at the forefront of discussion around the states, with ‘Security’ topping the list of Priority Strategies, Management Processes and Solutions and ‘Security Enhancement Tools,’ such as continuous diagnostic monitoring, coming in second among Priority Technologies, Applications, and Tools.
While we think about the audience, we don’t often map out the experience we want them to have when using our services. This is critical information for the design. In other cases, we may not have the data to analyze existing customers’ needs–or worse–may not consider who the potential customers are. Making decisions on a limited customer base can lead to services p/s that don’t meet the overall needs.
“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” — Mark Twain It’s simple—you’re the technical expert; you know the topic inside out, so of course you can easily explain it to a captive audience. Right? Not always. Communicators in every industry know that message development matters. External audiences, internal audiences and stakeholders of all kinds need clear information about your services, benefits and products.
Are you involved in a collaborative project where you need to share information? Whether it is within an organization across units or external to an organization – across agencies, or levels of government – sharing of information can be fraught with challenges. The Center for Technology in Government, (CTG) University at Albany, New York has released a toolkit Government Information Sharing: A Planning Toolkit, (http://www.ctg.albany.edu/publications/guides/infosharing_toolkit) designed for government professionals to help guide the process of sharing information.
Contact centers operated and managed by federal agencies have to follow certain laws, regulations, policies, and other directives. Unless specifically noted, contact centers operated and managed by states or local governments do not have to comply with these same requirements. Access for People with Disabilities (Section 508) Federal contact centers must comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Review the requirements and the accompanying guidance to ensure your contact center makes services accessible to individuals with disabilities.
Analyzing your visitors’ search terms can help you better understand their needs. It can provide valuable data about the content and organization of the content on your site. Create a Semi-Automated Report of Terms Here’s how to create a semi-automated report for analyzing large amounts of search data on a regular basis. A human still needs to review the data for changes and new trends, but this process can save a lot of time once you have a solid understanding of the data and the spreadsheet functions in place.
Cloud Computing enables convenient, on-demand access to, and rapid deployment of, shared computing resources such as networks, servers, storage, applications, and services. Plan What is the Cloud? Is Cloud Computing for you? What types of services does Cloud Computing support? Types of Cloud environments Implement Learn steps to acquire, manage, and secure your agency in the cloud Creating Effective Cloud Computing Contracts for the Federal Government: Best Practices for Acquiring IT as a Service (PDF, 963 KB, 44 pages, February 2012) Security authorizations for Cloud providers (FedRAMP) Improve Learn more about U.
A Twitter town hall, or Twitter chat, is an event where agencies invite public engagement for a scheduled time period during which users can ask questions or find out more information about a topic via Twitter, much like a webinar. The questions are tagged with a pre-designated hashtag, and the agency responds to questions using the hashtag, follows-up via a blog post, or uses another digital means of meaningfully responding to the engagements.
In our very first customer experience (CX) blog post about GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies’ (OCSIT) Customer Experience Program, we published our principles and values. Our core principles say that all staff will: Take responsibility for providing an experience greater than customer expectations. Engage, listen and resolve. Design business from the outside in, not the inside out. Incorporate customer experience as a key success metric in everything we do.
A sure way to drive employees crazy is to never share what executives discuss or decide until a new mandate lands on the organization’s collective head. While senior leaders should expect some privacy in decision-making and debate, they should also expect to openly hold themselves accountable and to make sure their employees know where the organization is headed. One way to offer that clear accountability and communication is by keeping people apprised of what happens in important executive meetings, even as those meetings are happening.
_ Guest post by_ Brenda Wensil, Chief Customer Experience Officer for Federal Student Aid (FSA). Established in late 2010, FSA’s Customer Experience Office is responsible for identifying, measuring and reporting customer expectations and satisfaction with the financial aid services and products offered at Federal Student Aid. The launch of StudentAid.gov in July 2012, by Federal Student Aid (FSA), part of the U.S. Department of Education, not only consolidated content from 14+ sites into one and retired five Web portals.
What’s one of the most important factors in delivering a good customer experience? When I first began learning about customer experience, one of the biggest surprises was the importance of culture. Organizational culture can be defined as the values and behavior that contribute to the unique and psychological environment of an organization.It’s based on shared attitudes, beliefs, customs, and written and unwritten rules that have been developed over time and are considered valued.
Structured content refers to the concept of organizing and treating digital content like data. It’s a way of publishing content as modular, discrete pieces of information that are tagged with machine-readable descriptions. Structured content has the potential to transform how people find, understand, share, and use government information. Why Structured Content Matters Most digital content published by the federal government is still found on static HTML Web pages. This unstructured content doesn’t always adapt well to smaller screens, and it’s harder to discover, share, or reuse the information.
Do you know who your customers are? And what they expect from your organization? One of the most critical components of a successful customer experience program is to understand your customer. The first step is knowing who your customers are. Are they veterans, students, senior citizens or other federal workers? In some cases your customers could wear many different hats when interacting with your agency. They could be a veteran, a caregiver, a parent, and a federal worker, all rolled into one.
In my last post I talked about how we’re kicking off our Customer Experience program in the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies (OCSIT) at GSA. There are many paths to creating a customer experience program, from starting with cultural issues like employee engagement and telling our customer experience stories, to events highlighting the plan moving forward. While we have been working diligently on employee engagement issues and talking about customer experience for a while, devising measurable outcomes to drive behavior change and new processes is our approach.
The vision for my office, the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies (OCSIT) at GSA, is simple: Deliver a world-class experience to the public when accessing government information and services – anytime, anywhere – through the delivery channel they choose. We create and leverage products, services and approaches federal agencies can easily adopt that will enhance their ability to innovate, deliver services, engage the public, and save valuable resources.
Instagram is the latest mobile and social media tool available to federal, state and local governments to better engage with the public, with a newly negotiated government-compatible Terms of Service (TOS) agreement. GSA collaborated with Instagram to negotiate the amended terms, which brings the total number of tools with federal-compatible agreements to 65. Instagram is a free online photo-sharing, video-sharing and social networking service that allows its users to take pictures and videos, apply digital filters to them, and share them on a variety of social networking services, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr.
Can you imagine how frustrating and confusing it would be to find several variations of the same agency name on different sites or even different pages or documents on the same site? This is what happens everyday to Spanish-speaking customers accessing the Spanish names of some federal agencies. They try to navigate the website to perform important tasks like applying for benefits, accessing health information, doing business over the Internet or filling out forms.
Everyone wants to know how to provide outstanding customer experience in government. It can be difficult, because everyday our customers are also doing business with companies like Starbucks, Zappos, and Virgin America, that excel in customer service. Those experiences drive high expectations for interacting with any organization, including government agencies. Customer experience–referred to in the industry as “CX”–is more than just a product. It’s about the perception your customer has every time they interact with your office, your agency or any product within your organization.
Do you know what the most important technology will be 12 years from now, in 2025? A recent report on Disruptive Technologies from McKinsey & Company predicts a number of evolving technologies that will have the biggest impact in the next decade or so, including for government agencies. Disruptive technologies are those that have the potential to disrupt the status quo, alter the way people live and work, rearrange “value pools” and lead to entirely new products and services, the report says.
Responsive Web design refers to a fluidly constructed Web page layout that scales from handheld device displays to large, high-resolution computer displays using flexible typography, flexible images, fluid grids, and CSS3 media queries. For years, most Web teams designed for the desktop. Branding, navigation, work flows – the overall look & feel of online applications – were all considered reasonable areas to distinguish one’s online presence from others. Things have changed so dramatically over the past few years that starting with the desktop may now be the backwards way of creating a web site.
In my previous blog post, I asked if your agency needs a Chief Digital Officer and before you answer maybe you’d want to know what exactly would a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) do at your Agency? According to Tim Bourgeois of ChiefDigitalOfficer.net , the biggest asset a CDO brings “is the ability … to make something a priority where, under the existing structure, it is tough to make it a priority.
Techcrunch. com reports Mary Meeker’s much anticipated annual Internet Trends report released at the D11 Conference last week shows astounding growth regarding use of smartphones and tablets. Among the highlights; Mobile Internet users have reached 1.5 billion, up from 1.1 billion a year ago, a 30% increase The number of smartphones is up to 5 billion mobile phones worldwide Mobile usage is now 15% of all Internet traffic, up 50% from 10% the year before Tablet shipments outpaced desktop and notebook shipments 3 years after being introduced There seems to be a shift from smartphones and tablets to other types of mobile enabled devices that Meeker is calling Wearables, Drivables, Flyables and Scannables See the complete slideshare for more Government mobile strategists who pay attention to Meeker’s stats will likely stay ahead of the curve regarding the expected continuing exponential growth in mobile usage, devices and applications and keep citizens and stakeholders engaged on whatever device they use.
It used to be when we said mobile we meant activities and devices defined strictly by mobility and the features associated with it, such as GPS, SMS, barcode readers, cell phones, etc. But when I found myself in my easy chair watching a ballgame on my laptop because it was closer than the TV, while checking other scores on my smartphone, mobility had little to do with it. If anything, I was the anti-mobile user.
Russell Reynolds Associates, the senior-level executive search firm, says that the last 2 years have seen the rise of the Chief Digital Officer (CDO), a senior executive who sits at the right hand of the CEO. According to the consulting firm Gartner, 25% of organizations will have a Chief Digital Officer by 2015. Large organizations such as Forbes, CVS, Harvard University, NBC News, Amnesty International USA, and Starbucks have hired CDOs recently.
Having a keyword search strategy is critical for government agencies to: Gain awareness, Secure a strong online presence and Help the public obtain the information they need. Since the public relies heavily on Government-related information for research, and a myriad of other tasks, each government agency should shape its online presence around specific keywords, which are based on what the user searches on the search engine.
The National Day of Civic Hacking is bringing together thousands of civic hackers on June 1st and 2nd. But what is a civic hacker, anyway? “Civic hackers” as we think about it for theNational Day of Civic Hacking are technologists, civil servants, designers, entrepreneurs, engineers – anybody – who is willing to collaborate with others to create, build, and invent to address challenges relevant to our neighborhoods, our cities, our states and our country.
Mobile is a fast moving technology leaving many agencies feeling behind the contracting eight-ball. Between finding those rockstar mobile developers, figuring out what to ask for in a statement of work (SOW), the time it takes getting a contract to get those expert resources, agencies are challenged in making anytime, anywhere mobile gov. We have some relief. We have been working with several agencies to create model mobile SOW templates to use in a new program designed to streamline the acquisitions process for some technology services–like mobile development.
As the SEO Specialist for Brighton College, I have come across many frustrating, un-optimized, information-rich government websites which are difficult to find on the Internet. Although government websites may have an advantage over commercial websites pertaining to search engine optimization (SEO), without an intentional SEO strategy Internet users may not be able to find what they are looking for. Search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo regularly favor government websites over others based on the natural trust factor which their algorithms may take into consideration.
Gamification is the practice of using game technology or design principles for something that is not inherently game-like. Some examples include: bronze, silver, and gold badges for reading a set number of books, progress bars in online surveys, leader boards for top grades on an exam, or rewards for attending in-person events. As gamification projects are becoming increasing common in the government, here are some basic principles and policies to help program managers and project directors make informed decisions around this popular technique.
The Digital Government Strategy represents best practices in today’s web services landscape. The DGS outlines a path to making government web services faster, more cost-efficient and higher-performing. It also frames out the digital government that everybody wants by making government information more flexible, actionable and easier to use. America Has Been There and Done That. Really?! Many consider the internet to be a brilliant feat of engineering and innovation, which it is, but what I believe to be the most interesting aspect of the new cyberspace is that it mimics real-world business network innovations that have long existed in physical space.
Automated translation is touted as a one click solution. But is it? From time to time, the listserv lights up with the issue of translating websites into other languages and I’ve seen the interest increase as Web managers struggle to comply with competing mandates to serve their customers. Many Web managers are tasked with installing the “magic button” solution on their websites to make them multilingual and comply with current mandates, such as Executive Order 13166 and the Justice Department’s 2011 Renewed Commitment Memo.
Yesterday marked three months since the release of the Digital Government Strategy and agencies have been making great strides in meeting the milestones toward building a 21st Century Government. In his blog, Building-blocks of a 21st Century Digital Government, Steve Van Roekel said: Executing on this vision of government cannot happen alone. To provide the highest value of services, we must rethink from step one how government builds and provides services for the American people.
In his May 23rd, 2012 Presidential Memorandum, President Obama directed Executive Departments and Agencies to: Implement the requirements of the Digital Government Strategy, and Create a page at www.[agency].gov/digitalstrategy to publicly report progress of this implementation. Consistent with Milestone Actions #2.1 (open data) and #7.1 (mobile optimization), agencies will post candidate data sets and services to open up over the next several months on these pages.
Last month, the Obama Administration launched the Digital Government Strategy (PDF/ HTML5), a comprehensive roadmap aimed at building a 21st Century Digital Government that delivers better digital services to the American people. We’ve hit the ground running and are already hard at work driving the strategy forward. First, we’ve established the Digital Services Innovation Center to operationalize the principle of “build once, use many times” by serving as a virtual hub, supported by agencies across government, to incubate and accelerate innovative digital services.
Making Mobile Gov was a three phase multi-media project created by the MobileGov Community of Practice to help federal agencies discover, discuss and design a citizen-centric path to mobile government services and information. Held during the summer 2011, this project served three strategic goals: Educate—provide resources for mobile evangelists to help inform decision makers on (1) the criticality of investing in mobile gov to provide public services and (2) the opportunities in leveraging cross-agency strategies.