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Government websites receive over 2 billion monthly visits, highlighting the public’s preference for digital services. Agencies are adapting, prioritising a digital-first approach to enhance service delivery.

The Office of Management and Budget emphasises the shift towards digital-first public experiences, as the majority access government services online, with increasing mobile traffic. Erica Fensom of DocuSign stresses the importance of foundational work for digital services, ensuring fast, secure, and mobile-friendly experiences.

However, there’s room for improvement. Nearly half of .gov websites lack mobile compatibility, and only 2% of government forms are digitised. Fensom underscores the significance of modernising forms, as they’re often the initial step in accessing government services, yet poorly designed forms lead to user frustration and abandonment.

Despite offering PDF forms, agencies still fall short of optimal digital experiences, particularly if not mobile-friendly. PDF forms create processing bottlenecks and increase the risk of errors, emphasising the need for streamlined digital processes.

Delivering digital-first services amid pandemic

Congress directed agencies to prioritise a digital-first customer experience with the passage of the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA) in December 2018.

The COVID-19 pandemic further highlighted the urgency of a digital-first approach, as agencies swiftly moved their operations online.

Erica Fensom, vice president of corporate affairs at DocuSign, emphasised the pandemic’s role in spotlighting the need for improved digital services. She noted the agility of government agencies in responding to the crisis and the ample room for enhancement in digital service provision.

Amidst the pandemic, the Department of Health and Human Services exemplified the benefits of a digital-first strategy, successfully distributing $175 billion in grants to support families, workers, and healthcare providers. This accomplishment was made possible through emergency COVID funds.

To build on the progress initiated by the 21st Century IDEA, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued recent guidance instructing agencies to prioritise user experience in designing products and services. This includes testing digital services for accessibility compliance and integrating user feedback throughout the design process.

Fensom underscored the significance of this guidance, highlighting the opportunity for agencies to adopt a digital-by-design approach in service delivery, thereby enhancing customer experiences.

In aligning with the digital-first imperative, agencies are phasing out policies that necessitate physical signatures, paper documents, or in-person identity verification. Instead, they are embracing electronic signatures and digital processes to streamline interactions and reduce friction in service delivery.

Fensom emphasised the critical role of signatures in the engagement process, stressing the importance of ensuring a well-planned, secure experience for citizens.

Additionally, agencies are turning to the governmentwide Technology Modernisation Fund to modernise IT systems and enhance online service delivery. Fensom emphasised the need for upgrading legacy systems, implementing new solutions, and collaborating with industry partners to improve customer experiences in government service interactions.

First steps to deliver digital-first services

DocuSign supports over 5,000 federal, state, and local government agencies in transitioning manual processes to automated digital experiences. However, the progress in optimising digital services varies among agencies.

According to Fensom, a crucial initial step for agencies embarking on this journey is to designate a digital experience delivery lead. This individual would spearhead the digital-by-design strategy, ensuring security considerations while envisioning the agency’s digital transformation.

Following this, agencies should prioritise reviewing their primary public-facing websites and redesign them with user experience enhancement in mind. Beginning with forms and creating user-friendly web experiences is paramount, with a focus on ensuring accessibility. Soliciting feedback from the public and industry partners is essential in this process, with DocuSign available to provide guidance on best practices for service delivery.

Recent guidance from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) emphasises the importance of meeting individuals through their preferred communication channels. Fensom suggests that agencies prioritise communication methods commonly used by the public. For instance, individuals are significantly more likely to engage with text notifications regarding their benefit status than with emails. This presents an opportunity for government agencies to innovate and improve service delivery by adapting to constituents’ communication preferences.

Watch Erica Fensom’s interview with Federal News Network:

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