When you think of March Madness – you usually think of college basketball. In 2017 however, we will all remember the March Madness debate associated with the American Health Care Act - the bill meant to replace Obamacare. The frenzy began with the introduction of the bill on Monday, March 6, and ended with the bill being pulled without a vote on Friday, March 24. It’s too soon to tell whether another bill will be floated, or whether lawmakers will seize the opportunity to make changes to the existing law, with politics playing a big part of the equation.
In government, the interpretation, implementation, and communication of changes impacting constituents require the right combination of tools to get things done. These “tools” are the technologies and processes that can effectively respond to the inevitable policy and programming changes that will ensue over the long-term and the ability to proactively reach out to the impacted constituents. One shift that appears clear is that states will take a much more active role in determining how programs will operate and how dollars are spent. As I see it – there are three critical areas that will determine the level of success:
Ease and agility in applying policy and regulatory changes - IT professionals learned the hard way that interpreting policy and writing code for those interpretations is a recipe for disaster. The problems were twofold: 1) misinterpretation of the policy, and 2) the inability to easily make changes once it was hard-coded into the system. Luckily, the emergence of “Rules- Engine” technology put the management of complex rules in the hands of the program staff, rather than the IT team. The most effective versions of these Rules Engines are able to cut and paste sections of the law or regulations to ensure accurate compliance. They can also provide agility to react to the inevitable changes. States such as Massachusetts, Vermont, Georgia, and Tennessee have all relied on robust Rules Engines – including Oracle Policy Automation to guide eligibility determination for key social and human service benefit programs.
Proactive outreach to those who are impacted – As laws are implemented and policies changed, it is absolutely essential to proactively notify citizens. Otherwise, you are subject to a tsunami of calls, emails, texts, and walk-ins to your agency contact centers; not to mention disruptive town halls. Additionally, confusion or misinformation can develop into a snowballing negative story that stifles progress and erodes public confidence. To avoid these situations, you will need to look beyond the usual broad-based outreach campaigns. Rather, you should target any affected individuals through today’s widely available digital channels, including mobile applications and social media channels. You can engage most consumers who need to know about any changes based not only on their location but also other important key markers including gender, education, profession and more. By moving many of these tactics online and enhancing the experience through digital platforms, you can achieve a level of interaction that only recently has been available to scale. To top it off, all of these channels have near and real-time analytics capabilities that track digital footprints, so program effectiveness can be measured and adjusted where necessary.
Personal Engagement – The third critical area is achieving a level of personal engagement with your constituency. This happens when citizens are able to obtain the right service at the right time. Leveraging solutions that have already penetrated commercial markets would include personalized citizen dashboards, as well as a 360 view of the citizen with the ability to collaborate across other government agencies.
Also, implementing machine learning – which is the ability for computer programs to teach themselves to grow and change when exposed to new data – can also guide recommendations for a citizen journey resulting in positive outcomes. Offering an “Opti-Channel” (i.e., optimized for the individual citizen) delivery of government services offers personalized, consistent experience to facilitate transparency and trust. And ultimately, analyzing data allows leaders to develop actionable insights, which can refine policy, target resources and make informed decisions going forward.
These are not futuristic wish lists that are fun to dream about but impossible to achieve. The technology exists today. The need exists today. And change is on its way – if not today – very soon!