Categories
Citizen Engagement Digital Government Uncategorized

Engaging Millennials

I have lost track of the number of times articles on customer and citizen engagement talk about millennials and their unique characteristics – it seems to have reached mythical dimensions. So what is this “millennial phenomenon?”

What sets millennials apart from other generations, namely Baby Boomers and Gen-Xrs, is that this is the first generation to grow up in an interactive digital world – the so-called “digital natives.” To millennials, mobile and social technologies are what the telephone and the radio were for Baby-Boomers in their youth. Immediately accessing information and instantly communicating and sharing is second nature for this generation.

As a result, they expect not only immediacy of information but also brevity and conciseness of communication. It’s not that they have the attention span of a child but, rather, they have been conditioned to quickly process high volumes of information. They are also very visual; not surprising considering that the average young adult watches over 500 videos on line a month – from a collection of 75+ billion videos available on line (Comscore Video Metrix survey 2014). Given the gargantuan volume of information available digitally, millennials tend to be very selective about the information (or services) they want. And, in the process of getting them, they seek to have a personalized experience.

Given all that has been written about millennials, one would think the differences run far deeper. But the evidence seems to indicate that is not the case. IBM conducted a study about the preferences and behavioral patterns of millennials in the workplace. Their findings: Other than for their technology savvy, millennials are a lot like their older colleagues. They have similar career aspirations, desire for recognition and level of comfort making decisions on their own. A Fizziology report on social media communications found that, by and large, all three generations converse on-line about popular social topics a comparable amount.

So how to best engage millennials? Here are some tips from the experts:

– With smartphones and tablets as their standard equipment, mobile presence is a must. The key here is that the on-line experience across platforms has to be seamless, regardless of the device being used.

– Keep in mind that millennials span three decades and, as a result, there is a lot of variation in their interests and preferences. The youngest millennials are still teenagers while the oldest ones are marrying and having children. When developing an engagement strategy, you need to ensure you utilize the channels and platforms that your target millennial segment utilizes. Just as important, the content you create needs to be relevant to the channel where it is published. Otherwise, it will not resonate with your target audience.

– Appeal to their visual sense and desire for a personalized experience by using interactive applications. Applications that allow the user to zoom, spin, rotate and interact with an object virtually the same way one would with a real product will provide for a more engaging and personalized experience.

– Keep the communications brief and concise. Otherwise you run the risk of losing your audience’s attention.

You might note that there is little mention about social media here. While social media is a great tool for marketing products and services to millennials, it has limited utility in eGovernment applications. Why? Because of privacy concerns. Millennials are keenly aware of data mining practices of social media providers and they want to keep aspects of their life such as their dealings with the government private. To wit, a recent Accenture #AFSFedPulse survey found that only 20% of millennials living in the Washington DC metro-area would use Facebook or Twitter to receive information from the government.

So, yes, millennials are different – but not so different.

Categories
Citizen Engagement Digital Policy Open Data

Shock of the new

From the highest level of decision-making to the front line of service delivery, we cannot just assume we know the nature of people’s problems and what solutions would be best for them. Steve Hilton in “More Human”

When we launched the Citizen20Series website in May 2015 we commenced a series of interviews with people in government, and in business. We have interviewed citizen activists, academics, politicians, consultants and civil servants. Many of the interviews have been featured here on this site.

In most of the conversations we’ve had we’ve been trying to answer one particular question: how should government do a better job at engaging with citizens?

Some of the people we interviewed questioned the logic of this. For example, Dr Donald Norris, Professor and Head of the Public Policy Department at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, questioned whether citizens really wanted better relationships with government. They might want to get some simple information or transact in some way. And technology has helped to make the process of information provision and transaction rather easier. But, in Dr Norris’ view, the grand vision for digital government hasn’t really materialized.

To an extent this failure to deliver can be explained by history. Until fairly recently, politicians and civil servants defined the nature of the relationship between government and citizen. Taxes are collected and public services are provided. Therefore, citizen focused services have not really been the policy focus. And, perhaps, digital government never really addressed citizen needs anyway.

But this simple idea of service payer and service provider is changing. Several factors are playing a part in undermining the historically simple contract between citizen and government. And, inevitably, this will mean that the relationship will change. In fact it’s already happening – shockingly fast.

Read the full report

Categories
Big Data and Government Open Data

The People and Government Data

In one of his most recent posts on Citizen 2015 my colleague, Larry Larkin, provides an overview of a recent study undertaken by the Pew Research Centre. The study outlined how Americans were using government data and information.

The study showed that people tended to use government data – and relatively simple data at that – only from time to time and to address a relatively simple need (like getting library opening times).  But often it’s lack of availability of data that results in citizen frustration – and citizens often aren’t even aware that this is the case.

One of the issues that governments face in terms of providing “service” to citizens is that citizens don’t consume government services in quite the same way as they consume commercial services. They tend to consume services on an as-needed basis. And they often don’t readily appreciate the relationship between data and service.

To date, attempts to make government more open and accountable have focused on the provision of information – giving data (or information) to people that want it.  Opening up data is often the result of a citizen movement and many government bodies haven’t been entirely keen to let go of their monopolistic ownership of data.  But there’s evidence that this war is being won.

But the next step for government is allowing data to be used to do things in better ways. Because often when citizens most need data they aren’t actually seeking it. Data is simply the means of providing service. In the commercial world data isn’t such a big deal. Rather it’s simply the enabler of service. There is an expectation that if one calls a contact center, for example, the contact center staff will be able to access data and answer questions quickly. Often this simply isn’t the case when citizens attempt to avail of government service.

For example, let’s assume a citizen makes a planning application for an extension to a house. Despite attempts to make the planning application process easier it’s often the case that a lack of data in the right place at the right time makes the overall service experience miserable for the applicant. The ability to submit all information via a self-help portal may be missing. The system may not be sufficiently ‘intelligent’ to be able to guide the user through all of the necessary processes for filing – resulting in incomplete or non-compliant applications. The work-flow may not create appropriate or timely communications. Contact center staff may not have the necessary information in order to deal with queries about applications. The contact center may constantly defer to planning specialists – resulting in bottle-necks.

Citizens who have to deal with these frustrations may not identify data as the main reason why a government service fails to deliver or results in frustration. But it clearly is a data problem if workflows are stunted, contact staff can’t deal with queries or systems contain fundamental bottle-necks. Data – or lack of it – results in poor performance.

It’s for this reason that the ‘government as a platform’ (GaaP) movement has to be the next big thing in government. GaaP is all about getting the data where it needs to be by thinking about processes and data calls. This is a poor definition of GaaP – and not strictly accurate. But I’m trying to make the point that without data in the right place at the right time services can be highly frustrating and utterly inefficient.

On the subject of GaaP, John Jackson of Camden Council in London was featured on the GDS website recently – and discusses how the concept is now very relevant at local government level too. John spoke at our Citizen2013 conference.

Categories
Digital Government Digital Policy United Kingdom

Mike Bracken Leaves GDS: Passing the Baton

The Head of the Government Digital Service, Mike Bracken, has announced he is leaving the civil service. We asked Emer Coleman, former Deputy Director for Digital Engagement at GDS, to give her personal reaction to his departure.

Over the past two years – since leaving Government Digital Service – I’ve spent a lot of time working with senior people on digital leadership. Well, on leadership really, digital is just the trojan horse.

One of the things I try to get them to understand is that successful leadership is now a distributed function. It doesn’t come from the top down – rather it exists all over successful organisations and is determined by the hierarchy of contribution not the hierarchy itself. My interest in this stems from a quote from Nietzsche: “he serves a teacher badly always to remain only a pupil.”

I thought of that quote quite a lot with the announcement, last week, that Mike Bracken will be leaving Whitehall at the end of September. Apart from the digital legacy for government and citizens that Mike will leave, more striking for me is the fact that he created a template for change in one of the most risk averse environments one can work in – government.

Real change only happens in the civil service or public service when individuals care enough to lift their heads above the parapet and really care about better outcomes.

Before Mike there was no template for what that looked like so he created that template using a combination of street smarts and keen strategic skills. He wouldn’t give up and he wouldn’t give in he just kept pushing forward with a laser like focus on what needed to change to better meet the needs of citizens in a digital age. So now there is no room left for excuses. We know what change looks like. It looks like someone who understood what Billy Bragg meant when he penned Talking with the Taxman about Poetry:

Outside the patient millions
Who put them into power
Expect a little more back for their taxes

It behoves those that Mike leaves behind, therefore, not to remain pupils but to come together across Whitehall and step into his shoes. Not just one or two. But all of them. A baton has been passed but in the digital race the baton is no longer exclusive. I’m looking forward, therefore, to seeing those new digital leaders whizzing past with the same zeal and courage that Mike has demonstrated so ably in government. That is, of course, if rumored cuts are not to derail the whole digital transformation of government with truly unfortunate consequences for the most important people of all – users of government services.

I’ll finish by exhorting: The strategy is delivery folks. Onwards.

Emer Coleman is the former Deputy Director for Digital Engagement with Government Digital Services. She is now Director of Development and Engagement with TransportAPI  and CEO of Disruption Ltd a consultancy specializing in Digital Leadership Training for Senior Executives.

Categories
Digital Government Digital Policy

Editor Viewpoint: Nick Wakeman Washington Technology

Nick Wakeman is Editor of Washington Technology, the authoritative source of competitive intelligence for executives providing contract services to the government market.

In this role he has an unparalleled viewpoint of what’s happening in the technology supplier market, what segments are hot (or not) and which prime contractors are coming up with innovative methods for winning market share.

In this interview Nick talks about the dynamics of the government IT market, emerging trends, new products and services and the effect of cyber-security breaches.