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Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2016: Imagineering a Magical Citizen Experience

Don’t Mistake Citizen Experience for User Experience

Michelle LaLumia's avatar

By: Michelle LaLumia

October 17, 2016 | Customer/Citizen ExperienceData and Analytics

Once again, the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo – North America is being held at Walt Disney World Resorts in Orlando. What better place for government CIOs and senior IT executives to learn how to improve the citizen experience than at Disney’s flagship property?

Corporate America is bullish on customer experience. Some variation of a chief experience officer is increasingly common. Not so in government. Gartner government analysts Cathleen Blanton and Rick Holgate delved into the reasons why during their Industry Day session on this very topic. When the audience was asked if their agency had a role dedicated to enhancing citizen experience, a smattering of hands went up.

Citizens ≠ Customers

There are good reasons for the disparity. The relationship between government and citizens differs from the one between companies and customers. Namely, it’s not necessarily voluntary. Often there are unpleasant circumstances that lead citizens to engage. They may be doing something they have to do (getting a drivers license, paying taxes); seeking financial, medical, or other public assistance; or entering the criminal justice system. Too often agencies add to the pain by making it hard for individuals to find the information they need.

Despite these differences between the public and private sector, from an IT perspective, the reasons for success — or failure — are similar.

CIOs don’t own citizen experience, but they must be key influencers and enablers. Improving citizen experience goes beyond familiar IT goals to improve productivity and efficiency with fewer phone calls and faster service. Such goals are valid, but they must be tied directly to the agency’s mission – reduce prison recidivism, respond more quickly to emergencies, identify epidemics earlier.


Efforts to improve citizen experience succeed or fail for several reasons:

  1. Mistaking user experience for citizen experience. Digital or online interaction is only one piece of an overall, cumulative experience. Blanton cited court systems in New Zealand and the U.K. that are not just improving online self-service but looking at how to reconfigure their courtrooms to make them less intimidating.
  2. Trying to own the entire experience.  A citizen-centric experience almost always includes peer agencies and outside organizations. CIOs can help identify the outside organizations in the ecosystem and work with their counterparts to optimize seamless workflows and data flows.
  3. Taking a “one and done” approach. Citizens’ needs and the tools available to address them evolve over time. CIOs must stoke ongoing enthusiasm for an iterative process.

Predictable, Consistent, Easy

The role of IT in improving the citizen experience is straightforward: Make it easy for the public to (a) find the right point of access and (b) navigate an often complex path to find needed services. Especially for vast agencies that a person may interact with over a lifetime, create an experience that is predictable, consistent, and easy.

Disney guests expect a magical experience. Citizens can be delighted with everyday sleight of hand.

About the Author

Michelle LaLumia was a member of the marketing team with MicroPact from 2016 - 2018.