Digital Ecosystems, Part 3: Cultivating a Holistic Digital Strategy

July 11, 2017
Anatomical illustration, showing binary code over the skeleton, and a citizen journey map over the muscles.

At this spring’s GOVTalks, I discussed how an organization can create a holistic ecosystem powered by a solid digital strategy. My previous posts have touched upon what digital ecosystems are and why you need to cultivate one for your organization. This last post of the 3 part series focuses on how you can build a holistic digital strategy to help manage your digital ecosystem. Watch a recording of my talk with the video at the end of this post.

The Anatomy of a Digital Strategy

Citizens interact with your organization in several ways and patterns. For the longest time, a physical location and phones were the most prominent means of citizen interaction. Then came the web, and organizations rushed to replace in-person interactions with screen interaction.

While a web transaction costs a fraction of an in-person transaction, you still need to design how these interactions fit into your larger plan of service delivery. Citizens expect a certain standard for online interactions. If your organization fails to meet those expectations, citizens may lose trust in your organization — a trust which is inherently dwindling when it comes to government. This is where having a solid digital strategy helps.

A digital strategy connects all the key dots so a citizen doesn't feel friction and employees can do their jobs efficiently. There is no formula for a digital strategy to ensure your organization’s success, but the first step is to prioritize it.

The following are the key elements for creating a digital strategy:

  1. Organization goals
  2. Citizen engagement
  3. Experience mapping
  4. Gap analysis
  5. Roadmap

These elements should help you form a digital strategy that provides direction, empowers executives to lead digital initiatives, gauge their success, and reiterate the strategy until you see the expected results.

The first step is to revisit your organization’s goals.

Organization and Department Goals

The most effective digital strategy strikes a perfect balance between your organization’s and citizen’s goals.

Typically, goals trickle across the organization and divide between departments and teams. As every department and every team within that department aims at meeting or exceeding these goals, we need to pause and make sure these goals come together to achieve the desired end result. This should not be a rat race to perform within assigned silos. Leading with organizational goals alone will only give you a partial picture. To understand if you and your teams are on the right track, you need to consider your citizens’ or customers’ goals. To understand your citizens’ goals, you need to do a citizen engagement study.

Citizen Engagement

Citizen engagement is the north star of any digital strategy. Technology is just the enabler. Unless you have a clear view of who your citizens are, it is premature to come up with technology solutions. To understand citizen engagement better, let's look at the elements of a citizen engagement:

  • Who interacts with your organization? It is key to understand the goals and the motivations that drive citizens to your digital presence. This is called user segmentation.
  • Where and how do they interact with your organization? How do they complete tasks to achieve their goals?
  • What channels do they use? A channel is the medium of interaction between your citizens and your organization. Most citizens are comfortable using digital channels like websites, mobile apps, live chat, social media, and text messaging, but there might be a segment that prefers traditional channels like interacting in person or over the phone. Knowing this data, along with the context, helps in piecing together the citizen puzzle.
  • What devices do they use? Older devices might inhibit citizens’ access to certain technology. And mobile devices allow native features like a camera and geolocation, but their screens are small and interactions are often interrupted.

You can capture citizen information and engagement in the form of personas. Personas describe the characteristics and behavior patterns of your citizens. Pair personas with scenarios to capture the context and motivation of their interaction.

(GeorgiaGov Interactive offers a Personas workshop as part of the State Certified Content Specialist Course. You can also develop personas on your own with our personas template, PDF, 123.83 KB.)

Experience Mapping

Experience mapping is critical to your digital strategy, and is often the cause of pivots or resets. Mapping your citizen’s experience visualizes the process that a citizen follows to accomplish their goals. Based on a chosen scenario from citizen engagement, an experience map paints how a citizen approaches and transacts with your organization. The map reveals friction points and interaction gaps. It highlights the frustrating and satisfactory moments during the journey.

The anatomy of a citizen experience map includes the following elements:

  • Persona and Scenario
    Before you start documenting and visualizing a journey, identify the who (persona) and why (scenario).
  • Stages
    Stages are the core divisions of the citizen journey. For example, if your organization manages a benefits program, the stages may include education, application, review, and retention.
  • Touchpoints
    Touchpoints are the exact times when a citizen interacts with your organization. Mapping all the touchpoints is key in uncovering inconsistencies and gaps.
  • Channels
    Capturing all the channels of interaction along with touchpoints aligns the experience with context.
  • Citizen Satisfaction
    Most citizen journeys reference existing scenarios. This is a good point to insert survey ratings to see where a citizen might be struggling with your services.
  • Organizational Ownership
    Lastly, list out the departments that support each particular touchpoint. No department wants to be listed by the lower citizen satisfaction marker. Visualizing the entire experience and associating with owners gets disinterested teams to understand how their silo affects or gets affected by other departments.

(GeorgiaGov Interactive offers an Citizen Journey Mapping workshop as part of the State Certified Content Specialist Course. You can also develop experience maps on your own with our customer journey template, PDF, 131.56 KB.)

Gap Analysis & Roadmap

Mapping experiences and understanding citizen engagements uncover a wealth of information about how your services are consumed. If your organization is internal facing and drives decisions based on processes and technology, the map helps identify gaps in how that affects citizens. As additional gaps are uncovered, it helps form a better digital strategy to address your organization goals. Conversations to make your organization citizen centric can start with how you deliver services.

Finally, a roadmap for your organization’s services should be a key deliverable for your digital strategy. Government organizations need to design for citizen experience, and it’s important to consider how you deliver across all channels. Citizen centric experiences create trust. If their experience isn’t consistent, citizens will question the organization’s credibility. A roadmap helps converge channels, devices, platforms, and conversations for an optimum citizen experience while meeting organizational goals.

Is your C-Suite listening?

If you are a C-Suite team member of an organization without a digital strategy, it is not armor or a firewall that will protect your presence. It is a healthy ecosystem to boost your organization's digital immunity. It lends a platform to build an effective content strategy by focusing on understanding your citizens better. With a solid digital strategy, you can reach more citizens and create a friction-free experience while building trust and credibility for your organization.

Nikhil Deshpande

About the Author

As Director of GeorgiaGov Interactive at the Georgia Technology Authority, Nikhil Deshpande leads the team responsible for managing Georgia.gov, the official online portal to Georgia state government, and a w

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