Government and Digital Engagement: The Road Ahead

October 13, 2016 by Anne-Frances Hutchinson

It had to happen sometime: government agencies are catching the customer experience bug. A technology adoption profile commissioned by IBM and conducted by Forrester puts it plainly. “For governments, this heralds a new era: the age of the citizen, which is an era in which a government’s "customers" — meaning the citizens and businesses within a specific jurisdiction — are empowered by technology to demand better interactions and hold governments accountable for delivery.”

Touting this “age of the digital citizen,” Governments See a Bumpy Road Ahead to Digital Engagement recognizes the importance for government agencies to offer top-shelf digital services to its constituency. At this moment in time this is an aspirational goal, especially given the sheer breadth and complexity of existing governmental systems and processes.

The paper’s authors make it clear that “budget and infrastructure limitations hinder digital strategy advancement at many agencies. In the near term, management of unstructured content and digitizing operational processes with improved capture is a ripe area for improving government operations.”  

A full 39 percent of the government and nonprofit sector decision-makers surveyed cited lack of funding as the number one barrier to doing digital business.

Just over half of the agencies surveyed insist that upgrading or replacing legacy systems is a “high or critical” priority. Analytics and mobile plans follow at 42 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

Despite the urgent desire to enter the digital age, shifting from paper to digital is going to be neither convenient nor straightforward for many agencies. Part of the problem is being able to turn data into digitally compatible formats.

“Diverse content types — such as mobile capture, HTML5 forms, XML, documents in page description language (PDL), rich media, and content captured from mobile apps and PDFs — improve the citizen experience but create headaches as well as opportunities,” the report notes.

The top five difficulties, listed here verbatim, are:

  1. Lack of content analytics to automatically classify and/or drive critical data from content (42 percent)
  2. Ability to archive and reproduce the content to meet compliance and regulatory requirements (40 percent)
  3. Ability to process the variety of content formats coming in without manual steps (39 percent)
  4. Ability to link incoming content to the appropriate case management process (33 percent)
  5. Ability to capture content from mobile phones and tablets (18 percent)

Forrester points out that, by and large, government systems designed to work with faxes and paper documents are at odds with contemporary data formats.

With nearly 80 percent of respondents indicating that a shared service capability could be valuable to their agencies, Forrester finds a puzzling flaw in that reasoning.

“Given that the No. 1 challenge for agencies when dealing with unstructured content is a lack of analytics to automatically classify and/or drive critical data from content, there is an apparent disconnect between need and the perception that a shared service capture capability can help mitigate this issue.”

The outlook doesn’t get any cheerier from that point.

“Forrester believes that mobility is a key enabler for the government of the future, yet mobile strategy for data capture is still immature. Just 18% of respondents identified the ability to capture content from mobile phones and tablets as one of their top challenges when dealing with unstructured content, and the majority (53%) of agencies aren’t prioritizing mobile capture.”

The agencies polled by Forrester do recognize that an increased flow of digital content in many formats have the potential to add value to the services they provide, and they also cite the need for improving how cases are processed.

“Better handling of unstructured content, including big data, has a strong potential to redefine the management of government caseloads in healthcare, claims, and hundreds of investigative and fraud use cases,” the report says.

Combining improvements in data capture with case management, according to Forrester, may result in better insight into data, productivity, regulatory compliance, intra-agency collaboration and customer service.

The desire is certainly there for agencies to improve service levels through digitization. It is successfully happening in pockets; in fact, the National Council On Aging has thoroughly overhauled a complex, difficult and potentially error-prone payroll process, creating a model program for other agencies to embrace. We are pleased to be part of that effort.

The pioneering Captricity platform painlessly and securely integrates paper with new digital systems, and offers a proven, convenient way to handle unstructured data – without the expense of replacing or overhauling legacy systems.

Whether a document is a web form, mobile image, paper or handwritten, our platform securely captures and transforms it into clean, high-quality, business-ready information so that agencies can enter the digital age today – and serve their constituents better tomorrow.

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