Citizen experience a key priority for GCC governments

GCC governments should take a holistic approach to improving citizen experience across all services, says Mohammad Sear of EY

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Citizen experience a key priority for GCC governments Governments should make citizen experience a strategic goal, says Mohammad Sear.
By  Mohammad Sear Published  April 23, 2018

For several decades now, the private sector has been championing the effort of delivering superior consumer experiences through customized products and channels of services. This has led customers to now expect a similar or comparable level of quality and service from governments.

Taking a cue from the private sector, GCC governments have very promptly rolled-out a series of initiatives to improve citizen experiences in the last few years. However, today’s citizens expect more — they want to be empowered and involved in the process of developing and improving services.

Factoring this shift in customer expectations, it is time for the GCC governments to adopt a more revolutionary and holistic approach to enhance their citizens’ experiences. An integral aspect of this approach is about ensuring that citizens are fully engaged and informed along the way.

If every government organisation makes citizen experience one of their strategic goals, citizens’ expectations can be met more effectively and consistently. And one way to do that is by establishing an ecosystem that is pillared on three key components - direction, enablers, and incentives. The purpose of the ecosystem is to facilitate and motivate all involved parties to play their part effectively.

The first component of building a citizen-experience ecosystem is laying the direction of what is to be achieved, and ensuring that vision/goal is well-supported by relevant legislation. For instance, GCC governments could establish specific units for citizen experience management at different levels of government including federal, provincial and local. A strong federal level entity with its presence in different departments and agencies will help governments to drive their citizen experience transformational projects more earnestly.

Let’s look at a recent example of the National Program for Happiness and Positivity (NHP) launched by the UAE federal government in 2016. This program, first-of-its-kind, demonstrates the government’s commitment toward nurturing a happier society and instilling positivity as a core value so that citizens are able to achieve their goals and ambitions. The appointment of CEOs for ensuring happiness and positivity at all government bodies; establishment of councils at federal entities; transforming customer service centres into customer happiness centres, development of annual indexes, surveys and measurement reports, demonstrate the visible progress the UAE has made in this area. A recent example is the formation of the UAE council for Artificial Intelligence to serve the government’s goals of Vision 2021, improve the quality of life of its citizens and residents, and make the UAE one of the best countries in the world by 2071.

Similar to the UAE’s zest to nurture a happy and positive environment, if all GCC governments are able to strategically link citizen-centric initiatives as part of their national vision programs, this would effectually support with delivering those initiatives in line with citizens’ expectations.

Once the strategic route has been established, the next step is about putting that into action. This is where the second component of the ecosystem, the enablers comes into effect. The enablers encompass the necessary infrastructure, institutions, tools and frameworks, capabilities and technologies to design citizen-centric policies and services. Enablers should be designed in such a way that it breaks silos and instead promotes greater collaboration, which is integral to achieving common goals.

For the purpose of a whole-of-government transformation, it is critical that GCC governments develop common platforms at the federal level, which is accessible by public agencies across all levels. This could include building a common procurement platform, developing cloud infrastructure, data centres, and performance dashboards. For example, establishing physical design labs can help GCC governments to understand the demographics, psychographics, and behaviour of the targeted citizen segment and re-design services accordingly.

Another focus area is the development of a knowledge framework and capabilities to measure and manage the citizen experience. This can be done by instituting excellence centres that can support with developing capabilities, monitoring and measuring the progress of the initiatives in the citizen experience space. The UAE presents yet another best practice in this regard by launching the Happiness Research Institute in collaboration with the United Arab Emirates University. The Institute will complement the NHP through capability development, research and scientific evidences on the subject as well as provide advisory services for the Government and its different agencies.

While strategies and enablers equip organisations to change, it is eventually the people that drive the change. This is where incentives, the third component of the citizen experience ecosystem assumes greater significance. It is very important that the public sector employees who are driving these citizen-centric initiatives are incentivized so that they are encouraged to perform better and continue to strive for excellence. The most common way to incentivize the public sector would be to develop rewards and recognition programs that are directly associated with a citizen experience transformation program. In addition, establishing innovation funds, toolkits, incubation centres and competitions to complement the reward and recognition programs, can help the GCC governments to develop a holistic approach to the incentives framework.

By bringing alive an ecosystem of direction, enablers, and incentives, the GCC governments can ensure that positive citizen experiences are not only delivered but sustained as well. This includes connecting the dots between vision, systems and processes for co-creation and co-design of services, rewarding the public sector, and most importantly creating an environment that encourages continued innovation and excellence.

With most of the GCC governments implementing a series of transformational programs over the next decade and a half, it is an opportune time to prioritize citizen experience more intensely than before to achieve the desired level of impact.

Mohammad Sear is Associate Partner, Advisory, EY.

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