The .Gov Task Force has issued the State of the Federal Web report, summarizing its surveys and the national brainstorming effort it sponsored. It’s a terrific report, full of great data and even better analysis. If you care at all about how customer service in the federal government functions (or should function), this is a “must read.”
Are there any surprises here? Heck no. Many of us – both inside and outside government – have been yammering about the proliferation of government websites, the lack of consistency, bad writing, and the need for easy-to-use “top tasks,” for years. The good news is that now we have the data to support it and a Presidential initiative to fix it.
So, what’s the one absolutely compelling need that jumps out…the elephant in the room? Governance. Governance across agencies. Governance across government. It’s time to wrestle with those 5 “R’s” of governance, establish consistency, and really improve customer service through the web.
What are the 5 “R’s” of governance?
- Roles – who, by title, must be involved?
- Responsibilities – what must they do?
- Relationships – how/when must they interact?
- Rules – how will they operate (policies, publication rules, and operating rules)?
- Review – how they will make sure that the first four “R’s” are followed and improved (accountability; management controls)?
Roles, responsibilities, relationships, and rules do not have to be (shouldn’t be) reinvented agency-by-agency. There are clear models of success out there (just check out Howto.gov). Embrace them. We need to stop the tug of war between communications and technology and customer service and figure out who has the lead and how it needs to be organized, keeping the customer at the center. It’s time.
But the biggie – the one that, without it, all else fails – is “Review.” We need good controls to make sure we’re adhering to “R’s” 1-4. Certification processes are great. But if no one spot-checks to make sure those certifications are accurate, who cares? If we don’t do something about noncompliance, why should anyone comply? Content management systems can help. They can enforce design and approvals. But they can’t fix bad writing. They can’t make sure top tasks are easy-to-use and easy-to-find.
You’ve got to have effective review processes to make sure everything (and everyone) is working according to plan. And there have to be repercussions if it isn’t (you lose your posting rights, you have to take more training, we find someone else to fill your responsibilities, etc.).
The .Gov Task Force is working on a governmentwide web strategy to address the findings documented in the State of the Federal Web report and chart a course for the future. They’ve done a superb job handling this critical initiative, so far; and I look forward to seeing what they do now. It’s a task fraught with peril – there’s so much to be done. This strategy has to be very focused and very practical. But this group looks like it’s up to it. And if they lasso that darned elephant, we’ll see real improvement in customer service.