Perspectives

Digital transformation in government

Insights to action

Digital technology is transforming the world—including government. As the public sector’s digital transformation is underway, what are the lessons learned so far?

3 trends powering rapid growth in government analytics

Authors: Peter Viechniki, manager, Deloitte Center for Government Insights and Jesus Leal Trujillo, data scientist, Deloitte Research and Eminence

Three key trends in advanced analytics are powering the government’s ability to measure its own performance and adjust resources to meet goals.

Read, "3 trends powering rapid growth in government analytics."

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More digital transformation news and perspectives

5 strategies for going agile in government
Author: John O’Leary
Although sometimes viewed as being suitable for only startup companies, the government is embracing agile development, even for projects to modernize large, core systems. Agile strategies should be in place to overcome unique government-related challenges when going agile—from procurement to training and culture.

How artificial intelligence is already changing government
Author: William D. Eggers
Cognitive technologies have the potential to redesign government work. Here are five ways AI can help government agencies cut costs, free workers for critical tasks, and deliver better, faster services.

Make 2017 the year of a digital-first federal government
Author: Dan Helfrich
How can the new administration make the federal government to a digital-first government? Dan Helfrich shares his insights.

Modular procurement and the dark side of the force
Author: William D. Eggers
What does the Death Star from Star Wars have in common with government IT systems? Size and complexity.

Federal Tech Talk: Delivering on Digital
Author: William D. Eggers
Listen: William D. Eggers talks about his new book, Delivering on Digital, and the untapped potential of digital transformation in government.

Federal digital transformation: What's next for USDS and 18F?
Author: Kymm McCabe
In just a few years 18F and the USDS have helped forward the federal government's digital transformation. With digital at an inflection point, what's next for these organizations?

How military strategy can improve cyber response
Author: Deborah Golden
Government is increasingly becoming a target for cyber attacks. Civilian agencies can look to military response and readiness best practices as they prepare their cyber defenses.

Telehealth: Meeting the demands of the tech-savvy healthcare consumer
Author: RJ Krawlec
As consumers become more tech-savvy, they demand technology to be a part of every facet of their lives—including healthcare. Putting telehealth into practice can help do just that.

Delivering on Digital: The Innovators and Technologies that are Transforming Government
Author: William D. Eggers
An excerpt from William D. Eggers' book Delivering on Digital: The Innovators and Technologies That Are Transforming Government talks about the importance of user-centricity in designing services. A human services agency in Australia is building its child welfare around digital technology and the individual needs of the children it serves.

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Learn more about some of our authors:

William D. Eggers

Deborah Golden

Dan Helfrich

John O'Leary

Kymm McCabe

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Case study: Texas Health and Human Services Commission

In 2011, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) simplified this process by installing a statewide integrated system that aggregates eligibility for various federal and state programs by using an integrated rules engine. This allows a single mother, for example, to apply for multiple benefits with one application. The system rules assess the programs for which she may qualify based on her income, household size, and other factors. With more people from all income levels becoming comfortable with mobile transactions, HHSC began exploring how it might bring its integrated eligibility functions to the mobile arena.

Older models of IT development might have entailed a multiyear, multimillion-dollar effort to build a mobile-friendly version of the service.

Instead, HHSC focused on the user perspective, asking what would eliminate a pain point for users but also benefit the agency. Unsurprisingly, one problem applicants often cited was the need to submit verification documents. While they could do so by mail, fax, or the web, many applicants didn’t have easy access to scanners or personal computers. Perhaps surprisingly, however, many do have access to smartphones with cameras. Since banks have long allowed their customers to deposit checks by taking a picture of the paper check with their phone and hitting the upload button on an app, why couldn’t applicants do the same thing?

HHSC’s team knew it was technically possible. But would applicants actually use such an app? And what kind of experience would attract the most participation?

These aren’t the kinds of questions we can answer in advance. They require time in the field, talking with real users. In HHSC’s case, it meant spending time in the service centers that many applicants visit when applying for benefits. There, HHSC’s designers learned a lot about the people they hoped would use the app. Most benefit applicants did indeed have smartphones, but their devices were often a generation or two behind and thus lacked advanced capabilities. This turned out to be a critical piece of information in designing the app.

Most were intimately familiar with their phones’ capabilities because it was their primary means of connecting to the web. “Many users were used to conducting their business on mobile devices instead of personal computers, making them sophisticated users,” explains Stephanie Muth, the deputy executive commissioner at HHSC who spearheaded the project.

The team introduced its first set of wireframes to users just two weeks after the project began. Demand was high; applicants quickly snapped up the software. The team gathered valuable information from early users that helped them refine the user experience and design features to be included in later builds. In a few short months, the agency released the app in the iTunes and Google Play stores. Almost immediately, the mobile versions took off; within a month, mobile document uploads surpassed those from desktops. A few months later, the app had been downloaded 300,000 times. And HHSC released five versions in the first year alone, each with additional functions and a better user experience.

Several lessons emerge from this experience. First, don’t make assumptions about how those who are less fortunate use—or don’t use—technology. Instead, test your assumptions with real users and continuously ask them for feedback. Secondly, start small and get a minimum viable product to users as quickly as possible. HHSC wasn’t imagining entirely new benefits or creating a program from scratch; it simply wanted a more efficient way to enable self-service.

Source: Delivering on Digital (2016)

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Determining eligibility and applying for government benefits can be time-consuming and frustrating. It typically involves finding and scanning payroll forms and birth certificates and carrying or faxing them to multiple offices. If you’ve ever applied for a home mortgage, you have a sense of what this can entail.

Learn more about 'Insights to action'

Insights to action is a community for sharing proven ideas during a time when government agencies are almost universally experiencing disruptive change. It shares insights from trusted leaders with extensive experience and diverse perspectives on leadership, strategy, business operations, innovation, and emerging capabilities.

Insights to action helps leaders and managers look again at the challenges and opportunities that come along with the evolution in government. 

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