I have worked within and with Federal and State Government agencies over the last five years. I have witnessed the frustration and road blocks these agencies face when attempting to improve user experience, enhance customer engagement and increase service delivery completion. One of the issues is most of the legislation in place is currently written around traditional paper based forms and processes. Another issue is that these paper based processes feed into large expensive mainframe legacy systems. Which are past their use by date and expensive to make changes to, and even more expensive to replace.
These systems don’t need to be replaced nor the legislation rewritten in order to make significant changes to the user experience and customer engagement processes. An inexpensive and fast win solution to this problem is use what is known as middleware to build a new application layer which provides a dynamic wizard like interface to the citizen, and automatically feeds data as needed into the existing legacy systems.
One of the traps people fall in to when designing a web interface for a paper based form is they think of the web application in a linear fashion, thinking of it like a wizard is a better idea. Make the application dynamic, don’t force information that is not applicable to the user on them, skip things which are not relevant to the individual you are engaging with. Combine multiple forms to fit a situation rather than forcing a user to fill in multiple forms and repeat information like their name and address details etc. Take advantage of information you already have regarding the user and prepopulate all the information you have if they are an existing user. Mr Smith who has just lost his job and is single with no kids doesn’t want to see all the form fields for spouse and child information, he only needs to see what is relevant to him.
Middleware doesn’t have to be expensive, Adobe ColdFusion is a good example of very inexpensive middleware which has Flex integration, PDF integration and a host of out of the box gateways and connectors.
Engaging citizens in this way enormously increases the completion of processes which represents a potential huge saving in both time and money, guarantees an increase in data and information integrity, and greatly enhances customer service delivery.