The business of government
Finding a solution that would make a meaningful impact on Sacramento residents was critical. But “citizen” doesn’t mean what it used to. With new e-commerce technology—especially around customer experience—citizens are getting used to higher standards. Typically, governments haven’t been expected to supply the same sky-high level of service as the private sector. But that expectation is changing.
As Yerneni said, “People have changed, and technology has changed people. They expect the same level of service and SLAs from a government that they expect from Amazon. They do not want to come to city hall anymore. They want a digital city hall. They want one place where they can log in and finish all their stuff. So while the citizens think that government employees underperform, they still want the best out of their government. And that’s where I think we have the opportunity to step in and make a difference.”
With today’s changing customer expectations, experience counts for as much in government as it does in the private sector. Customer reviews on platforms like Nextdoor.com are just one way for citizens—even politically disengaged ones—to voice their opinion about their city government experiences. The challenge for city hall is that, unlike in the private sector, they provide essential services like water and electricity that residents are effectively locked into. The stakes are higher because citizens never stop being their customers.
“If you fail to meet people’s expectations, the consequences in government are much bigger than what you see in the private sector. In the private sector you can decide not to go with a certain vendor anymore. Whereas in government, your customers are always going to be your customers. They’re not going to move somewhere else," said Sadanandan.
For Sadanandan and Yerneni, this means that their jobs aren’t just technical. They’re political. The task isn’t only to be technically proficient, but to balance the real needs of residents with the limitations of software. In order to run a successful IT department for the city of Sacramento, Sadanandan needed to rethink the relationship between government and citizens—and also reconsider how IT in a government setting should run in the first place.
For Sadanandan and Yerneni, the logical answer was to look for inspiration in the business world.
“So I always ask, why can’t I run IT the way Amazon does? My hope is that in the next few years, we’ll start to see this happening more and more. I’m really excited and passionate about trying to bring this way of thinking into government,” said Sadanandan.
Working with companies like Adobe to implement enterprise-grade technology solutions has helped save the city—and residents—a lot of time and effort. Sacramento had already begun going paperless using products like Adobe Acrobat Sign and Adobe Forms. The next step was to extend a business-grade level of service to the full citizen experience.