Voices from Accenture Public Service

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Public service organizations have long faced the do-more-with-less mandate. All levels of government have been forced to streamline processes and simplify systems—squeezing more value out of every taxpayer dollar. All of that is to their credit. And yet, sometimes it feels akin to using a garden hose when your house is on fire.

Incremental improvements have a time and place. But they shouldn’t be the focus when you’re dealing with a dire emergency and staring down a larger, more rewarding opportunity to improve outcomes. I believe that our public sector agencies and institutions of higher education now find themselves with an opportunity to act.

First, the dire emergencies: For government, the crises are coming in the form of demographic shifts fueling greater demand for public services and putting state and local workforces at risk (two words: silver tsunami). To replace this workforce, our government needs to look to a digital native millennial generation. Meanwhile, accelerating consumer trends and the growing influence of digital natives have set the customer experience (CX) bar extremely high. Tweaking longstanding organizations, systems and processes will only continue to drive incremental progress.

For higher ed, the emergency is even more existential. If that sounds overly dramatic, just draw the tuition graph out another 10 years and then ask yourself, “Would I be willing to pay that much for one year of education?” Even when you net out the true cost by taking scholarships into account, the answer is “no” for virtually everyone outside of the wealthy few. While colleges and universities may be tempted to assume that alumni development gifts and public funding will stave off disaster, I would argue that’s a dangerous path to inaction.

Now, the big opportunities: I’m thinking about incredibly accessible and innovative technologies. Inspiring trails blazed in the private sector. Groundbreaking public-private partnerships. And a public not only willing but eager to collaborate on a fundamental rethink of the way government and higher ed organizations engage and operate.

New research by Accenture underscores the power of tapping into the public’s wisdom on how government can deliver better service and better experience. We asked citizens in 10 cities to give us their best “Gov Hacks”—new or creative advice for how government agencies could improve their lives and save them time. The resulting Gov Hacks suggestions are overwhelming both in number and in creativity. If you have any ideas of your own, I invite you to share them in the comments.

Either way, I look forward to sharing some of the most intriguing possibilities in future posts and exploring how public service organizations can bring these and other ideas to life—not by tuning, but by transforming. Trust me: Put away the garden hose and go for the bold change.

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