2022 digital trends: The rise of the citizen consumer

2022 digital trends: The rise of the citizen consumer

What CIOs need to know to innovate and advance technology to meet the new demands of customer-friendly digital government services.

Over the past two years, citizens around the world have become accustomed to working, socializing, watching their favorite shows, and shopping online. According to research from Hootsuite and We Are Social, people now spend an average of 6 hours and 58 minutes online every day. Not surprisingly, they now also expect digital government services to offer the same speed and simplicity as their favorite consumer services — and to be accessible to everyone, no matter their available bandwidth, preferred language, and other diverse, inclusive, and equitable needs.

As a result, public sector CIOs are under increasing pressure to consider the customer experience (CX) when delivering digital services to the public. Recently, the US government enacted the Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government, which mandates CX as a priority for government agencies with a specific focus on how technology can help. And research from Gartner suggests half of critical government KPIs will include a user experience metric, such as customer satisfaction or percentage improved outcomes, to ensure services meet citizens’ expectations this year.

To better understand the challenges and opportunities government CIOs will face as they lead the shift to simple, seamless, and secure digital government experiences, Adobe partnered with Econsultancy to survey 509 government leaders and employees. One thing they all agreed on? The journey to equitable and personalized government experiences is important, and most government agencies have a long way to go. Only 14% believe their digital experience is ahead of customer expectations, while 37% say their digital experience is lagging behind.

The CIO takes center stage

Over the last decade, the government CIO’s job description has changed beyond recognition. Once a largely back-office role, the function has evolved to become far more strategic. Today, CIOs must have a clear vision for the future of customer experiences and how technology can help to improve them. And they must manage a complex ecosystem of agency and industry partners, protect constituent data against sophisticated cybersecurity threats, and understand changing expectations for digital design and service delivery.

But doing all this won’t be easy because of a growing skills gap in the public sector. Indeed, 61% of government or public sector employees and leaders agree they lack key skills for improving CX in government, such as design thinking and journey mapping. Additionally, only 20% of government employees score their talent and education programs as an 8 or more out of 10. This underscores the difficulties CIOs face as they take on new responsibilities and attempt to execute them without the proper support.

Balancing CX with government priorities like efficiency and costs

Another major challenge CIOs face as they assume these new CX responsibilities is how to balance a focus on the public experience with other top-of-mind priorities. As stewards of taxpayer dollars, agencies are under continuous pressure both to prove their value and to deliver more for less. Historically, success has been measured through cutting costs and improving efficiency.

To make progress on CX, CIOs will have to educate internal teams on the value of elevating CX to the top of the agenda and demonstrate how new technologies can help them improve both CX and efficiency while controlling costs. Our research suggests this will be critical as governments are struggling to fit CX into broader strategic plans. When asked to choose the top three drivers of digital investments in their organizations, 58% of leaders and staff chose increasing organizational efficiency and 47% chose reducing costs. Just 25% selected meeting the public’s enhanced CX expectations.

The answer: simple, secure, and seamless automation

A FedRAMP certified cloud-based approach to CX automation promises to resolve the tension between improving CX and governments’ traditional emphasis on increasing efficiency and controlling costs. Nearly one-third (31%) of public sector leaders and employees said they rely on homegrown software to power CX. Over the long term, this is a costly approach, as many agencies will not have the internal skills required to maintain and continually evolve complex custom software.

Another 30% of respondents said they use platforms from multiple vendors that aren’t integrated. This fragmented approach tends to be associated with high software license and vendor management costs. Another common issue with this model is difficulty identifying issues when problems occur. Because systems are not natively integrated, updates in one may affect performance in another, or the connection between the two, breaking hard-won processes and creating additional confusion for IT.

Only 10% of those surveyed rely on a unified, cloud-based solution, including software-as-a-service (SaaS). The SaaS model, in which a trusted third-party handles infrastructure and software maintenance, requires much less IT involvement than homegrown and on-site best-of-breed approaches. It’s also much less costly to get started with a SaaS solution than an on-premises application.

As governments move to the cloud and embrace SaaS and other technology services, they will see the long-term costs associated with digital CX decrease even as they deliver better experiences. In fact, Gartner predicts 95% of new IT investments made by government agencies will be made as a service solution by 2025.

Unlocking innovation

Government agencies — and their CIOs — know that they need to make innovation a priority. Only 17% of public sector employees rate their organization’s innovation capabilities 8+ out of 10. And 64% of both leaders and employees say their agency’s culture does not encourage innovation. This lack of cultural emphasis on innovation is likely a key reason why so many governments are running legacy, outdated CX systems. And it’s why some government IT organizations have been slow to embrace the need to dramatically improve digital CX.

However, a growing number of CIOs and their IT teams are pushing the boundaries and testing out new, more customer-friendly approaches to delivering services online. They are experimenting with novel techniques and technologies and using data to show how improving CX does not have to conflict with more traditional government objectives like increasing efficiency and reducing costs. Examples include:

It’s a great time to be a public sector CIO

Over the coming years, CIOs will be instrumental in ensuring government services become more digital, more accessible, and easier to navigate. They will need to choose technology solutions that reduce long-term maintenance and operating costs while improving the customer experience. And they will need both the courage to innovate, drive change management, and sell their vision to cross-organizational teams.

With the right vision, people, process and technologies, the current generation of public sector CIOs will open the digital door to a completely new government experience that inspires lasting trust and confidence from the public. Read the full 2022 Digital Trends — Public Sector in Focus report to discover how governments and CIOs are designing and delivering new citizen experiences.