Mar 29 2007

Don't Forget the End User

Don't Forget the End User

Considering the proliferation of cross-organizational initiatives, it’s often easy to forget what our government-systems capabilities are designed to do in the first place: to properly and adequately serve the end user, whether a government employee or a taxpayer.

Unfortunately, today’s collaborative and consolidated landscape means that users can become detached from the designers, installers and technical services people who make sure systems are up and working properly.

So, how do you make sure you don’t forget the end user — particularly in an era of e-government initiatives and shared services, where different organizations have critical needs that must be met?

Group Activity

According to the experts, one approach is to form groups of agencies to provide feedback as to whether systems and applications are meeting requirements — and, when necessary, what needs to be done to modify them.

Make it collaborative from the start. Be sure to fully engage all pertinent organizations throughout the process. Meet with the primary group every month on a task-force basis. And be sure to assign smaller workgroups peripheral responsibilities such as processing, security, documentation and training.

Be clear about system application objectives and how you plan to achieve them. A collaborative approach — with a great deal of communication in defining visions and goals — needs tremendous buy-in from the agencies across state and local government.

It really comes down to ownership: Nobody — when it comes to the latest technology — wants their approach to their processes dictated to them.

Customer Feedback

Often the simplest thing is getting the end-user community involved early. You want to get the right users involved up front — the most knowledgeable users.

To make sure applications continue to serve users’ needs over time, the lead team must regularly elicit feedback from end users and systems specialists.

Consider establishing a customer council consisting of organizations that volunteer to provide feedback, or “the voice of the customer.” The members of this council develop performance metrics for each application.

Another tenet: Assure continuity among users who provide feedback so you can compare recommendations over time. You need a consistent user group throughout the development process. Otherwise, there’s no standard of comparison, and everyone brings new and changing demands to the table. If the scope of the effort keeps changing, you can’t nail down your requirements.

When that happens, you get the same result as if you’d forgotten about your end users from the get-go.

Keeping the End User Front and Center

  • Solicit end users — especially highly knowledgeable, technologically savvy users — in setting system and application parameters and goals from project conception.
  • Establish diverse groups — consisting of users from a number of organizations to provide ongoing feedback on how needs are being met and how improvements might be achieved.
  • Keep user groups consistent — to ensure that user requirements are articulated clearly and thoroughly.
  • Plan and implement an effective training program — so that users understand new systems and applications.
  • Address the entire process — not just the immediate system or application.