Hundreds of millions of people depend on government services in the U.S. But, the gnarly processes and never-ending paperwork can limit the effectiveness of the best-intended public service. It’s hard to imagine a world where finding the right program for your federal student loans or applying for relief funds after a storm damages your home is as easy as placing an order on Amazon Prime, but now is the time to move in that direction. Design thinking can turn complex problems into simple experiences—paired with Digital Transformation it has the power to transform government agencies into streamlined services that empower government employees and drastically improve access to those services for citizens who need them most.
Government services are irreplaceable. This deeply important work touches a wide range of issues, from supplying housing vouchers to those in need, to placing foster children in the right homes; But for many government employees, the reality of endless paperwork and what can feel like an impossible maze of red tape often prevents them from delivering adequate outcomes.
How can governments provide these life-saving and necessary services to more people when manually assessing housing voucher applications or working through foster parent packets creates a backlog of months—possibly even years? No one plans to lose their home or income, and no child deserves to be stuck in a tangled timeline of bureaucracy.
The ability to be operational is only as strong as the structure a person is given to work within. When that structure involves challenging and time-consuming processes with technology that’s far from revolutionized, it can feel like there’s no room for change.
The solution lies in the capacity to look at obstacles through an entirely new lens — one that not only considers a singular problem, but looks at the entire system. The answer is Digital Transformation: a completely accessible approach that every government service deserves to employ.
How do you build a rock-solid government service, designed for efficiency? These are the first critical steps:
- Understand the crucial role that service design plays
- Define a clear picture of how the modernization effort makes financial sense
- Bring the people who use and run the service into the process of change
- Leverage technology, which is more accessible today than ever before
But wait, what’s service design?
Subpar experiences aren’t accepted in the consumer-driven private sector. It shouldn’t be accepted in government entities, either. Service design works backwards from the consumer expectations and the user needs to craft the ideal experience, with service functions that are efficiently architected to support the experience .
By simply digitizing existing systems instead of implementing service design, a system redesign will likely fail to make the intended impact. It’s a lose-lose situation that causes applicants to wonder why they haven’t been approved for a service they desperately need, and leaves employees stuck processing paperwork for those who submitted forms six months ago.
What can design thinking and service design change? Imagine being part of the department that’s pairing unemployment benefits to those affected by COVID-19. With service design, instead of sifting through thousands of incorrectly completed applications and only being able to help a few dozen people a day, a program’s reach could increase to hundreds a day. When systems can help those who need it, when they need it, the results equal a substantial positive impact on human life.
Just look at the changes healthcare systems have experienced during COVID-19. Telehealth alone barely accounted for a fraction of services until reality forced a change, and now it’s saving tons of time and allowing people and medical providers to connect remotely. Technology is transforming healthcare, and that transformation came from redesigning and reconfiguring whole systems.
Bring people along for the ride
It may sound obvious, but when you involve the people impacted by the restructuring of technology and head down the path of transformation together, everyone benefits. By involving diverse stakeholders and incorporating highly collaborative methods like community-based research and co-creation in the practice of service design, the result is a system informed by and designed for employees and consumers. Employees gain ownership over their work while utilizing the system to its full capabilities, and the public enjoys lasting benefits.
The technology is here; it just needs to be leveraged
It’s no longer true that government service groups need IT power equal to that of big tech companies to modernize and maintain the technology that powers their services.
Much of the complexity involved in building technology have been removed, as the foundational building blocks, tools and frameworks have been democratized. While leveraging technology to enable large organizations, with complex systems, does still rely heavily on the right design and implementation expertise, it’s no longer the case that these systems need to be built from scratch.
Theorem’s teams of designers, engineers and product specialists focus on delivering solutions that leverage the right blend of these off-the-shelf services and technology platforms, and then customize and implement them against time and budget constraints. And our team at Theorem Federal specializes in helping to bring this kind of transformative experience to government agencies.
It makes financial sense too
Digital Transformation doesn’t only improve the lives of employees and those depending on government services. It’s the solution that makes financial sense by widening reach and harnessing efficiency.
Imagine the possibilities in a world where different departments and stakeholders collaborate to co-design holistic solutions, and employees are given the power to do their job at their full potential.
Digital Transformation inspired by Design Thinking and Service design turns those possibilities into realities. It removes unnecessary bureaucracy and focuses energy and attention on what matters — allowing humans to do what only humans can, while technology handles the monotonous details. It creates the purpose-oriented culture that people want to live and work in.