How Holistic Design Can Digitize In-Person Government Services

I once gave a research participant a pedometer to measure his physical activity for 12 weeks. He looked at me and asked, “Does this thing put a lock on my refrigerator so I can stop eating in the middle of the night? I don’t need a pedometer; I need to improve my diet.” 

This was one of the early moments I experienced the impact of delivering solutions without understanding a whole person, process, and experience. 

Holistic design—the practice of understanding everything that affects the user before, during, and after a transaction—has grown in recent years. This is especially true in government, where services often transcend agencies, stakeholders, and policies. While “user-centered design” is buzzing around government and we’ve seen incredible transformations at places like the USDA, there is still opportunity for further policy and infrastructure to support the scale of digital transformation.

Enter the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA).Thanks to years of advocacy and hard work, the 21st Century IDEA legislation will help provide clarity, direction, and concrete next steps for modernizing the U.S. government’s digital, print, and in-person services.

In Section 4, the law outlines a mandate to “digitize in-person services.” This includes documenting existing services and potential digital solutions. This policy signifies a step in the right direction; it’s a call for baseline inventory of the jobs to be done and a roadmap for digitization.

How U.Group modernizes government services

U.Group has a proven track record of success in addition to the power of systems analysis, user experience design, and rapid prototyping to make government modernization a reality. We make this happen through three primary methods: 

  • Lean rigor. We start with the constraints on time and resources, and then collect as much empirical evidence as possible. By developing a shared understanding across disciplines, each team member has the tools and framework to execute any given task.  Even if the solution is a brief survey to the target audience, user needs always get priority consideration.
  • Train the trainer. Our UX work doesn’t stop at delivering a journey map or persona. Throughout our engagements, we constantly collaborate with stakeholders to co-create solutions.

With government transformation experts in leadership and in the field, we bring competency and expertise at all levels. Success, to us, takes the form of a government partner facilitating a user journey workshop, a career civil servant asking for digital best practices from the private sector, or a user bringing ideas for improvement.  

In 2019, with the 21st Century IDEA and other promising initiatives, we have an opportunity to scale our design and research operations and generate repeatable solutions for our government partners. Along the way, we will learn and share our vision for a digital government.  

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