Federal Agencies Coming Around to Digital Tools' Value, But Doubts Remain

By Steve Anderson April 06, 2015

It's been a little over two years since the White House announced a new kind of plan to bring more digital tools into normal government operations in a bid to provide something like customer service to the actual taxpayers. Reports emerging suggest that, so far, the so-called Digital Government Strategy was actually a sound move, producing a variety of benefits. But despite the benefits coming available, a new report from Accenture Federal Services suggests that there's still doubt as to overall impact.

The report in question, titled “Delivering on Digital Government”, noted the clear benefits of such programs in government service, and as it turns out, most of the benefits were similar to the benefits had in corporate use: improved collaboration and better, safer access to information regardless of operating location, making even the government a mobile workforce. Forty-nine percent of respondents cited better productivity, and almost as many—48 percent—saw improved delivery of services. Thirty-seven percent actually noted that customers were saved time, and roughly 75 percent of respondents saw at least some positive outcomes.

Plus, there's evidence that agencies are getting better at using such tools. Fifty-one percent of agencies report being either excellent or good at using digital tools in a customer service capacity, while 49 percent claim similar progress with customer engagement tools. Forty-three percent are using employee engagement tools at a similar level of skill. Several types of tools are being used, with 83 percent saying websites are commonly used to serve customers, and online knowledge bases come in at 53 percent. Telephone self-service tools come in at 49 percent, and social media at 48. Just 25 percent, however, put text messaging to use, and even fewer put in customer relationship management (CRM), mobile apps or Web chat services at 24, 23 and 21 percent respectively.

Only 33 percent noted some kind of cost savings turning to these new tools, and 63 percent point out the limited budgets departments are working with as the biggest barrier to digital adoption. Half of all agencies note that there isn't appropriate funding being allocated for such things. But there are other problems as well; while budget constraints are a big problem as cited by 63 percent of respondents, a lack of skill was actually a bigger problem, with 81 percent saying there was a clear lack. Fifty-one percent cited a lack of clear strategy from leadership, and 13 percent were not aware of any strategy whatsoever.

Indeed, some of these tools are working quite nicely; I personally remember watching the Facebook feed from the local road commission, which did wonders for letting people know if the roads had turned bad in winter. It would also seem like the government is not quite attaching the proper value to customer service; there are time savings reported, but not as much cash savings. In a sense, time savings are cash savings, and if service can be improved for the same budget, there's also a value there. Still, it's clear that there's some real headway made in this department, and whether the savings are in cash or time—or just better service—there's value to be had.

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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