Building Digital Experiences for the user
If you are in the business of designing digital solutions, do not let user need become an afterthought that is overshadowed by what the technology can do. User needs, and your relationship with the user, must be prioritised to create something meaningful, said Ms Jacqueline Poh, Chief Executive of the Government Technology Agency (GovTech).
Ms Poh was delivering the keynote address at the recent CXO Breakfast Talk organised by Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation (SiTF), held at Suntec Singapore on 2 November 2016.
The topic was ‘Creating Digital Experiences - The New Impetus For Business Growth’.
She shared insights into GovTech’s development process with C-suite professionals from the info-communications and media industry.
A Relentless Focus on the User
Who exactly is your end-user? Is he the man on the street, or the public officer who signs off on the project?
Government digital services are for citizens, businesses and public sector employees all put together, said Ms Poh.
Increasingly, GovTech is bringing in data scientists, design thinking specialists, behavioural scientists and ethnographers to really ask the right questions about user need, she shared.
“It’s tempting for an organisation with ‘Technology’ in its name to be focused on what the technology offers, rather than what the user need is,” said Ms Poh.
“But if we don’t relentlessly focus on the user, we’re never going to roll out infrastructure applications that make sense over the long term.”
And for such applications to make sense three to five years from now, Ms Poh advised the audience not to ask ‘What is the system we need to build this year?’, but rather ‘What does the user need in three to five years’ time?’ and build towards that vision instead.
Whether the technology that is required exists today or not, GovTech, along with other government agencies and research institutes across Singapore, can work together towards a common goal, she said.
One pain point that users shared with GovTech was the need to fill up online forms repeatedly for every electronic transaction across different government agencies.
As a solution, GovTech developed MyInfo, a consent-based platform where users who choose to use the feature will only need to provide their personal data once to the Government. This helps them to save time, avoid mistakes, and eliminate the provision of personal documents for verification in the future.
A vibrant tech ecosystem for all
Another governing principle of GovTech is that it focuses on building digital experiences, not just applications, said Ms Poh.
Government websites are no longer a mere vehicle to provide information — they must build a relationship with users, and as with every good relationship, it must be maintained: information needs to be on time, updates need to be regular, and transactions need to be smooth.
GovTech is looking into making digital experiences for users more seamless across different agencies.
Such measures will also be put in place for businesses because, although it’s very easy to register a business in Singapore, it’s not as easy to start one, she remarked. Starting a business requires licenses; setting up a bank account; dealing with all these different agencies in terms of CPF and taxes, and so on.
In any way possible, GovTech plans to ease the hassle of these processes, she said.
Ms Poh also shared that “Agile” is something the Government is moving more and more inexorably towards.
It is a way of developing software that essentially champions customer collaboration, responsiveness to change and frequent delivery of products or services through incremental releases and iterations, she explained.
The agile methodologies that GovTech employs for front-end systems, which required a mindset change across the Government. It is also important to use design to enhance experiences, data to support decisions, and APIs to optimise products, accordingly.
By building collaborative opportunities with industry partners and other agencies, GovTech has shown its mettle in developing digital services and solutions that citizens regularly use and truly value.
“GovTech does have an important role to play in industry development,” Ms Poh said.
“If we do all of these things right, together we could really have a vibrant tech ecosystem for all.”