I also was surprised that it didn’t connect better with other administration initiatives, particularly the OMB guidance on Streamlining Delivery and Improving Customer Service Executive Order which required – among other things – designation of a customer service lead at each agency and a customer service task force. The connection to digital government seems obvious, but the Strategy didn’t even mention including the customer service lead on the agency strategy teams. Also, I’d love to see all OMB documents be models for plain writing – this one isn’t (I’m sure the folks with PLAIN and the Center for Plain Language would be happy to help).
Still, the Strategy is a clear step forward for cross-government coordination and improvement; and that’s a very good thing. And the people working on it are among the most passionate and creative in the federal government. I know they'll work hard to make right things happen.
The biggest positive in the Strategy, in my view, is the emphasis on having an effective governance structure. That has been a huge problem in web management from the very beginning, and I have written about it many times. So I was really looking forward to seeing OMB’s guidance on digital governance. They didn’t disappoint.
Guidance was issued last week, and it’s both thoughtful and thorough. Kudos to OMB and the Digital Services advisory group! It even touched on that gap between other administration initiatives by suggesting that the open government, plain language, and customer service officials be part of the agency governance teams. It gives clear step-by-step directions, without being overly prescriptive. Well done! If agencies follow this guidance, I think government communications will improve vastly. At least those that involve digital interfaces.
But I wonder: why stop there? Since you’re going through the process anyway, why not be more visionary, more bold? Why not use this as an opportunity to exceed OMB’s expectations and create a governance structure that will ensure great communications – and better customer service – through all delivery channels, not just digital?
It’s not much of a stretch. Digital government already includes websites, social media, mobile apps, and open data. Plug in publications, telephones, correspondence, and personal contacts through walk-in traffic and meetings/professional conferences and you’ll have the whole shebang. The processes may be different, but the goals are the same. A single governance structure will let you ensure consistency through all delivery channels. As important, the people who manage those delivery channels bring to the table more information about your customers – who they are, what they want, how they ask for it; and we all know that the number one ingredient for great customer service is knowing and understanding your customers.