Connecting state and local government leaders
COMMENTARY | People today expect smarter, simpler customer service thanks to the likes of Apple, Amazon and Microsoft. States can deliver on that expectation by creating a single data source spanning all systems of record.
We live in the early days of what’s been called the experience age.
Five of the six most valuable companies in the world—and many of the most admired—are “experience companies.” What sets businesses like Apple, Amazon and Microsoft apart is their ability to use data to anticipate what their customers want, then deliver services in smarter, simpler ways.
As a result, people now expect this same kind of top-grade consumer experience from governments. And they’re trying hard to deliver it.
Every state is on a digital transformation journey to make transactions and interactions easier—to create an experience where residents can log in once and access agencies’ data, programs and business services.
But governments still face several obstacles to realizing that experience.
For starters, governments, like today’s leading companies, are swimming in data, but much of it is lying dormant. Actionable information is dispersed across state agencies, where assorted types of data are managed in separate databases that are built and structured differently. Because each holds its own unique sliver about a person, there is frequently no single view of the constituent across business services.
Agency leaders looking to solve this problem face a web of privacy rules, conflicting statutes and interagency data-sharing barriers. Even if they’re able to overcome those challenges, agencies still need to bring their disparate data together in a common structure with proper security and privacy protections.
The Data Access Challenge—and Opportunity
With so many obstacles to navigate, managing secure access across state systems can be a huge challenge with big implications. If agencies can’t recognize constituents in different places—and access all their interactions, transactions and information—then they’re not personalizing the experience in the way that today’s digitally savvy public expects.
To deliver that consumer-level experience, agencies must tackle the daunting complexity of connecting data, reconciling factors such as:
- Numerous systems of record. States can easily have 30 or 40 different agency boards and commissions, whose business data and applications are in different IT environments, including state data centers, cloud service providers and software-as-a-service infrastructure.
- The need for real-time data. Data must be up-to-the-moment in all systems if states are to serve constituents in a timely and accurate manner.
- Constituent control over usage. Depending on the use case, constituents may want all, some or none of their digital identity revealed, complicating how identities are managed holistically.
- Multiple languages. To cover the majority of constituents, states may have to communicate in a dozen languages or more, placing considerable demands on a dynamic user interface.
The opportunity here is to create a golden record or profile—a single data source spanning all systems of record, whether it’s tax collection, vehicle registration or economic development. Think of it as a master key.
More Flexible Transformation
To make vast galaxies of data appear seamless to the constituent, states need a more flexible solution that will interface with existing systems of record, rather than ingest them.
States can achieve a seamless approach to constituent services with an application programming interface management feature that connects to different systems. APIs allow applications to work together while still respecting their various business rules, cybersecurity and privacy. Because most databases already have an interface for reading and writing data, any API-enabled application should be able to connect with such a solution, unlocking access for constituents to benefit whenever the state is ready to move ahead.
This flexibility can make digital transformation a much easier lift for governments than a large software-as-a-service platform. These SaaS solutions, which essentially re-platform a state’s existing application portfolio to create a monolithic system of record, require major capital expenditure commitments and years to complete.
Building these transformative API connections is no small feat. Agencies should look for strategic partners with deep understanding of the changing nature of government programs and the needs and behaviors of users and populations. Trusted partners will help them unlock their siloed data and streamline service delivery to the connected constituent.
Robert Knapp is senior vice president of digital government solutions at Maximus.