Declare Your Independence from Paper

Digital-first is a common mantra among government agencies today. While it's been getting more press as agencies move to improve their citizen interactions, this shift to online is nothing new.

In 2003, the Government Paper Elimination Act went into effect. In 2013, the Obama administration set out the ambitious goal of a completely paperless government by 2019. Whether or not that goal is reached, by 2019 we will be living in a society much less reliant on paper. The benefits of a paperless society are numerous and include:

  • Environmental - Less paper equals less deforestation and pollution related to the manufacture of paper.
  • Economic - According to the EPA, a paperless office saves roughly $80 per employee annually in paper-related costs, which includes not only the paper itself, but also ink, toner, storage space, postage and more. Individual employee savings are even bigger when you consider the efficiencies gained. "The ROI for Government of Going Digital Made Simple" report from IDC Government Insights found that employee salaries are the "key component for savings." Reducing the amount of time workers spend processing, storing and maintaining paper forms will have the most impact on costs. Efficiency is gained not only for those employees in charge of documents, but also for people across the organization that benefit from having simplified access to data.
  • Data Value - Going paperless also increases the security and value of the data once stashed away in dusty file cabinets. With data stored digitally, organizations can better access it to analyze trends and comply with requests for information and transparency.

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Improving the Citizen Experience With Government Services

In 2011, President Obama announced "Improved Customer Service" as a cross-agency priority. Since then, a concerted effort has been put forth to improve the citizen experience with government services. The goal was for each agency to develop a customer service plan that included ways to use technology to improve the customer experience. Agencies posted the plans on their Open Government websites in October 2011, with the goal to build on these plans to streamline and improve customer service delivery.

Since then, the "digitization of government" has become a hot trend followed by the media. More and more agencies are moving formerly cumbersome and paper-intensive processes online as Internet access via smart phones and other devices has become prevalent. All this work has resulted in some positive outcomes. Continue reading

Measuring the Success of Your Events

During the summer months, the rate of government events tends to slow down, presenting a great time for reflection and planning. With this in mind, we wanted to outline some thoughts on how to measure the success of events. Whether it's setting goals for future events or looking back on past events, these tips will help ensure everyone is informed on what success looks like.

  • Set Clear, Specific Goals and a Call-to-Action - Events are a piece of an overall marketing strategy and serve as a way to advance the brand and drive business. While setting goals around revenue and attendance are important, each event should also have a post-event call to action tied to it. What do you want attendees to do after they leave? Buy a product? Schedule a meeting? Attend another event? Clearly define this goal and ensure that the event is planned with this desired result in mind.
  • Measure Twice - While overall satisfaction scores gathered through surveys are important, it is also critical to measure satisfaction across different elements of the event. This includes speakers, venue, food, timing/logistics, registration, cost, staff, and more. An overall satisfaction score could be pulled down by just one element or by a combination of multiple elements. Knowing the satisfaction, or dissatisfaction, in each element helps pinpoint the biggest opportunities for improvement.
  • Dig into Social - If you highlighted social interaction as part of your event (or even if you didn't) take a look at what was said over social media. Go beyond the number of shares, likes, and hashtag mentions and look at the sentiment. Were attendees simply saying they were there or were they excited enough about what they were hearing to share soundbites from speakers and thoughts on the event content?
  • Missed Numbers Doesn't Mean Failure - If the event went over budget or did not bring in the expected revenue, it does not mean that it was a failure. These numbers indicate a need for more informed planning and forecasting. Look at what you may have gained beyond the bottom line. How much did you increase the number of opt-in email addresses gathered through the event? Did event content generate social media buzz and/or media coverage?

We'd love to hear your thoughts on what signals success for your organization and how you measure it. Let us know in the comments.

We Want You…To Mark your Calendar

The landscape for battle is shifting quickly. From the emergence of cyber warfare to the physical battlefield moving from fields into cities, our military is undergoing a huge transformation. Additionally, military spending priorities are rapidly changing and military professionals are expected to pursue continuing education and specializations. Luckily there is a wide array of events tailored for the armed forces.

We wanted to highlights some of the major events that should be on the calendars of anyone involved with the DoD. Continue reading

Agencies Are A Step Closer to Creating Their Own Siri

From time to time GovEvents will come across information we feel our members and audience would benefit from. Here's something we wanted to share:

Federal agencies are a step closer to automating some of their common customer service processes using artificial intelligence.

The General Services Administration recently wrapped a pilot that walked federal agencies through the process of building chatbots and other intelligent personal assistants similar to Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa.

Graduates of that pilot have developed some basic prototypes--a single chatbot that lets users access Small Business Administration licenses, Internal Revenue Service tax credits, Forest Service park permits, and Health and Human Services Department benefits, for one. But prototypes weren't the point of the pilot, GSA's Emerging Citizen Technology Office lead Justin Herman told Nextgov--instead, it was to help agencies understand what they'd need before they can fully deploy intelligent personal assistants.

One finding, Herman said, was that agencies need to assess their cloud services, as chatbots and voice-controlled virtual assistants would need to pull information from the internet. Agencies also need to think about the way they structure the data the assistants might pull from, especially if that includes personally identifiable information from citizens, he said.

It's not yet clear where in each federal agency responsibility for creating intelligent personal assistants falls, Herman told Nextgov. Agencies such as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Labor Department completed the workshop and brought varying personnel, including public affairs officers, Python developers and innovation teams.

"No agency came at this pilot the same way," Herman said.

Herman's team, which has worked to help agencies adopt social media to better connect with citizens, has noticed new technology is generally initially relegated to a technology shop.

"Eventually, access to these services spreads down to the just the program level," Herman said, who explained he anticipates a similar pattern with intelligent personal assistants.

In the hackathon culminating the workshop, out of which agencies' prototypes emerged, federal employees worked alongside representatives from Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Oracle. In the future, depending on the platform, agencies might be able to develop their own assistants in house with little coding knowledge. A Labor Department team put together three Amazon Alexa skills with no prior experience, for instance. Others might need to contract out to technology companies directly.

GSA is planning a showcase to demonstrate how intelligent personal assistants could be used in government. In the meantime, Herman's team is collecting feedback from agencies about how the pilot helped them and what they need to be able to develop their own virtual assistants.

Though it's summer and the White House has recently undergone a transition, Herman said he was surprised at how representatives from some agencies are already cooking up new project ideas. Some are thinking beyond "how can we apply this to [getting] open data into services," he said, and instead considering combining chatbots with web forms and call centers using artificial intelligence.

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