Thursday, July 07, 2011

Thinking Mobile

I’ve been thinking about how citizens might use mobile devices to get government services for…well…years.  Sam Gallagher and I started talking about making web content usable on mobile devices way back in 2000, when we were teaching HUD’s partners how to create customer-friendly websites.  Mobile apps are here to stay, and it's a great time for governments to be planning their strategies. 

My friend Gwynne Kostin, at GSA, is leading a discussion – well, several discussions – about how the government could/should get on the mobile bandwagon.  She’s raising important issues, and I hope you’ll take time to weigh in – or at least eavesdrop.  At the top of the list is a discussion about strategy.  So, here are the 3 points I’d offer, as you think about your agency's mobile strategy:
  1. Mobile apps are just another way to deliver the services your customers want and need.  They’re a “how,” not a “what.”  So your mobile strategy should be a subset of your customer service strategy.  Don’t develop it in isolation.  Work with the web managers and call center managers and publications editors and the Customer Service Officer and anyone else who interfaces with the public to decide the best ways to deliver each service.  Don’t reinvent the wheel for each delivery channel.  If you can make one app that can be used on the web, on a mobile device, by call center operators, and by desk receptionists, that’s efficient for the agency and great for customers.
  2. As a rule, it’s a waste of time to try to make your entire website mobile-friendly or to create a separate mobile website.  Most people don’t want to wade through a website while they’re on the go.   They just want to complete a unique task.  So focus on tasks – not websites.
  3. As with everything we do, take your cues from your customers.  Start with top tasks (those tasks your customers want/use most).   Figure out what kinds of things your customers really want to do when they’re on the road, out to lunch, waiting for their kids at soccer practice; and create easy-to-use (and I mean as few words and steps as possible) apps.  Involve customers in the design.  Watch customers use your apps, and measure your success by their success.
A long time ago, I suggested we might one day organize all government web content into just a few sites, with a small “services” site (in other words, tasks or apps) as the centerpiece.  I wonder if we’re getting closer?

Go look at Gwynne’s discussions.  This is good stuff!

Related Posts
Customer Service Strategies Start With Customers
Serving the Public – What Lies Ahead


Richard Gunther said...

Just as the proliferation of government web sites leads to great confusion and reduces the effectiveness of the online offerings, I'd be concerned that a flood of new government agency apps would do the same. People supposedly love apps, but there are already so many mobile apps now that it's all just a sea of noise. How do you suggest standing out through all of that?

I'm thinking that apps should be task-centric. For example, HUD might collaborate with agencies and partners to deliver a home-buying tools app. Or OPM might create a status and schedules app (or better yet, maybe just offer integrated calendar subscriptions).

And for mobile apps to be truly effective, they should take advantage of the technology offered in today's mobile devices: location-based services (find nearby homes that qualify for such-and-such a program), phone integration (call your representative's office), scheduling (add tax payment reminders to your calendar), and more.

I'd hate to see a glut of useless, agency-branded apps flood the marketplace just so agency Secretaries, Administrators, and Directors can claim a mobile presence.

Candi Harrison said...

Oh, Richard - you and I are right on the same wavelength! Wish we could turn you loose on this - I know you'd get it right. Thanks for weighing in.