Optimizing the citizen experience with interactive portals and one-door entry policies
IT leaders are rethinking citizen communications as the pandemic has led constituents to use hundreds of services online.
From employment-related information to updates on the pandemic’s impact on communities, residents are hungry for information that is often culled from numerous sources including federal, state and local organizations, hospitals, insurance companies and more. As these services go online, CIOs and IT leaders are exploring newer concepts such as interactive portals and one-door entry policies to enable smoother government interactions with citizens via digital platforms.
However, providing this information through one easy-to-use and easy-to-find application remains a major challenge for CIOs and IT leaders integrating disparate sources using varying platforms. Through citizen-first approaches and technologies like integration platform as a service (iPaaS), organizations are overcoming barriers and strengthening constituent relationships.
Making interactive portals accessible
In constituents’ efforts to access information in a safer way, easy-to-use portals became crucial resources to provide DMV, vaccine and unemployment-related information, and much more. But developing an easy-to-use portal requires the integration of a wide variety of resources and platforms.
iPaaS solutions became helpful as users needed one easily accessible resource with all relevant information, regardless of the original source. iPaaS delivers a cloud service for application, data and process integration across numerous formats including cloud-to-cloud, cloud-to-on-premises and on-premises-to-on-premises.
As an example, while dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, governments have needed to deliver information about testing, vaccines and other pandemic-related data. One state health department tackled this challenge by creating a single platform to provide its 10 million residents access to all relevant COVID-19 information, as well as a new management system designed for health care providers managing and administering the COVID-19 vaccine. The platform connects vaccine data used for state reporting purposes including for data analysis, performance monitoring, reporting and visualization through tableau dashboards on who is receiving the vaccine, vaccination availability phases and demographics.
iPaaS technologies supported the solution by seamlessly consolidating and connecting the data from disparate systems and resources including the CDC Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS), CDC Immunization Gateway (IZ) Data Clearinghouse, the state medical board, board of nursing and board of pharmacy, and vaccine provider enrollment, among other sources.
In another example, a city in the Midwest wanted to provide digital access to its 311 services, where interactions traditionally consisted of phone calls handled by teams to initiate service requests. These ranged from fixing a pothole or a streetlamp to reporting long neglected lawns. By adopting an iPaaS solution, the city was able to design a service catalog that spanned multiple departments, as well as disparate systems and data to provide a seamless digital user interface. Services could also be initiated on a phone and a map where a person could “pin” their location and initiate the service, tying it directly to where they saw the issue. This helped accelerate the response of the impacted department as they knew exactly where the issue was occurring.
Optimizing one-door entry policies
Even the most well-designed platforms have limited value if they’re inaccessible and hard for users to find. It’s crucial city and county IT leaders make resources directly accessible from their organizations’ website. They can do this by implementing a one-door entry policy.
A one-door entry policy means a user can access a resource from any point within the government’s website within three clicks. A one-door policy mimics the idea of a virtual town hall—intended to make resources as easy to find as they’d be if an individual walked in the front door of the town hall. The concept may just require a simple design change, but it makes a major impact on the user experience especially for less tech-savvy constituents.
For example, to better serve its constituents, one major city revamped its web home page and more prominently presented a catalog of common city services including 311 requests, tax and fee payments and permit applications. The initiative prioritized services based on internal analysis and feedback from citizens to ensure the most needed services were most visible. Some of these identified services needed to be digitized prior to being added to the catalog.
One of the most well-received services was a parking ticket payment portal. By digitizing the service and exposing it on the home page, the dollar amount of fines collected grew exponentially. The key was the simple payment process, and by making it available through the one-door portal it became easier for citizens to pay their tickets and revenue collection increased almost overnight.
Many city- and county-run IT systems have struggled to adequately serve constituents and deliver the digital services they need, especially over the past year. These challenges represent a trend that isn’t new—the demand for easier access to information. As cities and states open up, CIOs are still looking to incorporate more services to accommodate for the future of remote constituent relationships. Tools like iPaaS will help local governments move more capabilities to the cloud while keeping citizen facing applications usable and effective.
Joseph Flynn is the public sector chief technology officer for Boomi. A former CIO and vice president, Flynn brings years of public sector experience helping organizations and their leaders define unique, business focused solutions to complex technology programs.