Citizen Engagement, Cloud Computing

Cloud Technologies Can Help Restore Citizen Trust


We count on government to deliver important services and programs that contribute to flourishing communities, families, and individual lives. That means, we count on those services to be there when we need them. Most of the time, we only notice when something goes wrong. When it does, an important societal pact is jeopardized. We lose trust.

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Every year, Edelman issues “The Trust Barometer,” a survey that measures the American public’s trust in large institutions. Between 2017 and 2018, the trust score for the government dropped from 47 to 33 percent.

Let’s take that decrease seriously. Trust is the currency of the government. It’s what gives government organizations legitimacy and credibility. But often, the reason for the decline in trust comes from our heightened expectations because of the way commercial services engage us. As customers and consumers, we can do our shopping, banking, planning and everything else online, with personalized apps that are easy to use, personalized and available on our time frame. We expect government to operate the same way!

This expectation gap can be addressed, but it’s not just about delivering new technology. Rather, the solution starts with creating a cultural AND technological shift.

This shift can be daunting to agencies, especially with constrained resources, but cloud has an important role to play in restoring and maintaining citizen trust.

Here are ways to ensure it does:

Focus on Service

Government agencies aren’t traditionally organized around customers because historically, technology was built with process rather than people in mind. At the time when many systems were established, these technologies made sense for the citizens being served, but as the various groups and processes have changed, so too should the technology. It’s time for departments to move beyond silos and outdated systems. It’s time to put people first, employees included.

As a former government CIO, I have much empathy and admiration for the trailblazing agencies working toward that goal. It’s certainly not easy!

The first step is to take care of the basics–execute core functions and programs well. This means applying a certain rigor to fundamental tasks, from security hygiene to managing large vendor ecosystems. When routine work is managed routinely, it frees up time and energy for more transformational work.

Then, think about how to make customer engagement as effortless, informed, and satisfying as possible. Put yourself in the customer’s seat—how do they want to get information? What makes the process easier? Begin with the end in mind.

Work backward from there to determine what needs to be changed to deliver exceptional engagement. Consider how cloud and other new technologies can make this vision a reality. Technology used to be a limiting factor, but that’s really no longer the case. If we can re-imagine it, technology can probably make it a reality.

Choose Partners, Not Vendors

For your transformation bets, you want the right partner to see it through with you. Choosing a cloud service provider is a commitment on your part, and you want to know that provider is just as committed to you! Your provider should see themselves as partners aligned with your organization’s priorities, values, and mission needs. Be wary of an overly transactional relationship.

Yes, the technological capabilities are always important, but a partner who is as customer-centric as your organization is the true North Star to modernization success. They’ll be invested in your success through the challenges that accompany any such initiative.

Start Small, Move Quickly

Today, cloud platforms can sit on top of legacy systems and contribute value in a fraction of the time.

Older systems still do important work, but they’re not agile. Cloud platforms enable continuous innovation, which allows your agency to adapt quickly to changing missions.

In this paradigm, technology is a tool that agencies harness. They don’t need to figure everything out up front. They move quickly and take advantage of new technologies while modernizing legacy systems at a pace that makes sense for them.

The final, and most vital, ingredient is a few change agents with a vision and passion—Trailblazers–who will drive the cultural transformation.

Public expectations have indeed gone up. As citizens, we expect government to meet the same standard as the companies we choose to do business with. This is a high bar, but there are many inspiring stories of departments and programs meeting, and exceeding, those expectations. When citizens experience those incremental improvements, they begin to recognize the real and ongoing benefits, which generates real and ongoing trust.

Casey Coleman shares why government IT leaders must be change makers. Read her interview with Washington Exec for details.

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