But identifying what needs to change is almost always easier than actually making the changes—especially in an enormous state such as California with a sprawling bureaucracy of more than 230 agencies that have a significant say in the development and deployment of digital services within their domains. Success depends not only on delivering digital services in a cost-effective manner but also on getting buy-in and collaboration from leaders across agencies (and accommodating a varied set of user preferences).
Identifying what needs to change is almost always easier than actually making the changes—especially in an enormous state such as California.
Today, there are two prevailing approaches to delivering digital services in the public sector. One is to create a digital front door that serves as an online portal for users to access aggregated services developed and provided by different agencies. California has taken this approach with CA.gov, its front door for digital services. The key benefit of this approach is the ability to add new services relatively quickly. But this speed comes at a cost. Without one owner of digital service offerings and delivery, it’s difficult to direct the pace and scope of digitization efforts, provide integrated offerings across agencies, or leverage resources across agencies.
The other approach to delivering digital services is to task one government agency with service delivery across channels. This new organization doesn’t replace the home agencies but is responsible for designing, managing, and supporting their digital services (or at least a subset of them) across channels. This approach—recently adopted by Oklahoma—facilitates coordination and integration across agencies, maximizing domain control. The downside to this approach is that it takes longer to launch and scale, requiring a greater degree of coordination and sustained stakeholder buy-in.
What’s Next for California After Vision 2023?
By deploying the front-door approach for digital service delivery, California rapidly expanded access to digital offerings during the pandemic. To maintain momentum in service improvement, the state might consider these four steps to capture near-term gains and support long-term enablement:
- Pursue a holistic approach. Within the confines of a federated model, establish the conditions that foster agency moves that holistically build toward a future state vision. Build a target state architecture with shared platforms and assets across agencies, coordinate technology investment decisions, and integrate hiring and training plans.
- Lay the foundation for more service integration. Standardize data capture and sharing by implementing a comprehensive data exchange framework and continue prioritizing investments to modernize tech systems for better interoperability and efficiency. Adopt common standards and technologies for digital identities that can accelerate the adoption of harmonized solutions across agencies.
- Start by focusing on often used and scalable services. Services related to driving, automobiles, births, and deaths are rich in data, require overlapping government services, and can be scaled rapidly. Because these services are visible to the public, improving them helps build trust quickly. This, in turn, allows the government to expand digital to other services and offerings, further increasing public satisfaction and engagement.
- Treat government employees as customers. Gathering and responding to employee feedback is a powerful way to improve service levels, accelerate speed to market, and increase recruitment and retention. Employee needs generally span four technology categories: basic, off-the shelf digital tools; digitized paperwork and processes; automated service provisioning; and modernized back-end systems.
By providing more proactive, integrated, and personalized digital services in an easier to navigate, seamless, and omnichannel way, the government of California could improve the public’s engagement and satisfaction, drive down costs, and reduce errors. The state knows this and is moving in the right direction to elevate its digital services. But more needs to be done in a more systematic way across agencies so that California can move quickly to capture the benefits.