Enterprise Technology Renaissance Could Power Better Citizen Services

The nature of work–the jobs performed and the cross-departmental collaboration required to get them done–has not changed much in the past two decades, but the means to perform those jobs can be revolutionized in the next three to five years, said John Donahoe, president and CEO of cloud platform provider ServiceNow.

“The reality is work hasn’t changed that much in the last five, ten, twenty years,” Donahoe said. “And yet, working together, we in the next three to five years can change work more than in the last couple of decades.”

That could provide a boon to government organizations that are expected to modernize and provide resources to their constituents on expedited timeframes, he said.

Speaking to a crowd of 18,000 attendees gathered at ServiceNow’s Knowledge18 Conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Donahoe outlined a vision for technology services centered on customer experience.

“There are certain companies and people that believe it’s technology for technology’s sake, and we’ll worry about the second-order implications on people down the road,” Donahoe said. “Technology must be in service of people, and if technology is not enhancing the quality of people’s lives, we are not doing our jobs.”

Those insights prove especially relevant for public sector authorities, with many localities ramping up investment in citizen services.

Perhaps the tasks in state and local governments haven’t changed in a couple decades, but the stewardship imperatives have come under much greater scrutiny in recent years, with government adoption lagging in contrast to consumer technology.

Donahoe noted the seamless interactions we have with streamlined private sector technologies in our home, and the contrast with what we experience at work. This contrast is even more apparent for citizens using government-provided technologies that feel more than a bit stilted.

“Every industry is being disrupted one way or another by software,” Donahoe said.

ServiceNow has made a push to become a market disruptor, bringing on executives like Chief Talent Officer Pat Wadors, who previously served as senior vice president of global talent organization at LinkedIn. Donahoe recently joined from eBay, where he served as president and CEO.

Purchasing goods and professional networking are not new tasks, but both have seen a seismic shift through technology.

So how can a government culture in innovation gridlock be disrupted? Donahoe says ease of implementation and user experience must dominate the focus.

“Consumer-based applications, cloud-based applications…have transformed our lives at home. They have taken what is complex in our personal lives and made it simple, easy, intuitive.” Donahoe said. “When you think about technology at work, no one would ever call it simple, easy or intuitive.”

The consumer technology revolution brought about myriad personal conveniences, but also new baseline expectations. That’s perhaps inspired more than a little distaste for lagging citizen services.

But born-in-the-cloud platforms are finally offering that same ease of use to the enterprise, Donahoe said. Adoption of these technologies could bring about the corporate tech renaissance he’s calling for in the next five years, and in turn the ability to impress customers that expect government services to rival industry innovation.

“There is no reason that we cannot build the same great experiences at work that we’re used to getting at home,” he said.

Government organizations that remain reticent could see the innovation gap widen. But adoption and state rollouts are already yielding tangible results with quantifiable metrics to support.

“We had provided no tool or resource for our staff to deliver customer service,” said Landon Cook, director of customer service for Tennessee, at ServiceNow’s Knowledge18 Conference.

Prior to implementing a ServiceNow Customer Service Management solution, his department had averaged 36 hours for citizen inquiries to be assigned to representatives of his department. That assignment time is now down to 8 minutes, he said.

Public servants must be equipped with the tools to serve. Simplifying processes, making “doing work” less work, flows from county worker to county resident and enables better service. Expecting government to replicate private sector results with the same antiquated tools might satisfy Einstein’s definition of insanity.

Public-private partnerships like Cook’s are already making work better. Unified effort throughout the IT community, Donahoe said, can provide the backbone for that change.

“It is our collective purpose; it’s not just our company, it’s this community’s purpose,” Donahoe said. “I firmly believe we are on the cusp of a transformative period where we can define the future of work.”

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