Friday, June 1, 2012

Which comes first, people or information?

I just finished absorbing the new digital government strategy rolled out on Tuesday by the White House. Thinking strictly as a technologist, my first impression is the strategy is an exercise in stating the obvious. There's nothing blatantly WRONG with it, but, there's also nothing ground-breaking. This is a pretty standard and accepted approach to large scale platforms/systems/services.

Now, let's take a look at the strategy again with a different point of view, the customer. From this perspective, there is an obvious mistake in the strategy, not putting the customer/citizen front and center. Many will argue that the customer is represented, even called out in a bullet point. Yet, it is not the first bullet, it is the third. Subtle? Maybe, maybe not. It is my experience that whatever is written in a strategy or requirements document first is what gets the most focus, so, that would suggest that the 'needs' of the information come before the 'needs' of the customer. When the inevitable time comes to make trade off decisions in the design, who normally loses? Yep, the person using the system.

Forward thinking organizations who have wildly successful online applications and services have recognized this by building their digital strategies to first focus on people. Who's the target user? What do they care about? How do they use technology in their day to day lives? And most importantly, what are they trying to do?? It is only after the customer's perspective is fully understood that the technical aspects of the system should be considered. Systems and services are built from the top down, rather than the traditional approach of bottom up.

At the end of the day, what's more important, the system/data architecture, the APIs, etc. OR a citizen/customer successfully achieving a desired outcome? The answer? Both, however, it's time to get the horse before the cart.

No comments:

Post a Comment