Time Tax Has no Season: the Hidden Tax You Pay Each Day
April 24, 2023 / #Unstuck Government
What if you could lower taxes and increase government services at the same time?
An unreachable utopia? A politician’s promise no one expects to come to fruition.
Well, it is achievable.
What is the time tax?
The time tax is the extra time and effort people spend navigating complex bureaucratic systems, especially when dealing with government services. It’s a frustrating and indirect cost that arises from inefficient processes and outdated technology. Reducing the time tax involves streamlining procedures, modernizing systems, and improving user experiences.
Or, as President Biden said when he signed the executive order (EO), Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government, in December 2021, directing federal agencies to work to improve customer services, “Americans expect Government services to be responsive to their needs. But too often, people have to navigate a tangled web of Government websites, offices, and phone numbers to access the services they depend on. . . When a disaster survivor, single parent, immigrant, small business owner, or veteran waits months for the Government to process benefits to which they are entitled, that lost time is a significant cost not only for that individual but, in the aggregate, for our Nation as a whole.”
While the EO focuses on the public, government employees deserve stellar user experiences too. In fact, we all benefit from more efficient work processes – happier employees, more efficient use of time, the ability to do more, and, of course, a lower time tax.
Part of the problem: clunky digital experiences
We have all been on the receiving end of a poor digital experience, whether it is a government or private-sector website or software. These poor experiences leave us frustrated, reflecting poorly on the organization.
- “Clunky” approaches and practices: project scopes that are too large and rigid, with too many upfront specifications and not enough iterative development
- Not focusing on people-centered tech practices like user research, design, and product management
- Insufficient technical capacity and expertise
We couldn’t agree more, which is why at OPEXUS, we are transforming our software development process to emphasize the importance of user research, design, and product management.
Start with user research
User research is the process of learning about your “needs, behaviors, experience and motivations through various qualitative and quantitative methods to inform the process of solving for [their] problems.” Specific to digital experiences, it is about creating or improving digital products or services. Research is a critical aspect of the user experience design process, as it helps designers make informed decisions that cater to your needs and ensures that the final product meets your expectations and solves your problems.
Various methods can be used in user research, such as interviews, surveys, usability testing, observation, and focus groups. By gathering qualitative and quantitative data, user research provides valuable insights into your pain points, goals, and the context in which they interact with a product or service. This understanding allows designers to create more effective and enjoyable user experiences, leading to increased satisfaction, engagement, and, ultimately, a better product for you.
The importance of design
Research informs design. Design covers several aspects, including user experience (UX), user interface (UI), content strategy, and service delivery. Designers are critical in blending product goals with user insights from their research to create systems and technology that work well for those who need to use them.
Here are some improvements that well-designed systems deliver:
- Simplicity and Ease of Use: Good UI/UX design strives to simplify complex tasks and workflows, reducing the number of steps required to complete an action.
- Consistency: Excellent UI/UX design ensures that all elements of a product or service are consistent in design, functionality, and user experience. This creates a sense of familiarity and makes it easier for users to navigate and use the product.
- Clear Navigation: Good UI/UX design provides straightforward and intuitive navigation that allows users to quickly move through a product or service. This includes using clear labels and visual cues to guide users and help them find what they seek.
- Responsive Design: Excellent UI/UX design is responsive, meaning it adapts to different screen sizes and devices. This ensures that users can access and use the product or service from any device, which is critical in today’s mobile-first world.
- Accessibility: Good UI/UX design considers the needs of all users, including those with disabilities or special needs. This includes designing for accessibility and providing alternative ways to interact with the product or service.
Though a staple of private-sector digital teams, they are uncommon in government, including software vendors specific to the government. Project managers are common in government, but product management is different. Product management is the practice of defining the strategic direction of a product throughout its lifecycle. Product managers “prioritize, communicate and align stakeholders and teams around: what needs to be built, why and for whom the product is being built, [and] how it will be built and delivered.”
When product management is part of the software development lifecycle, it helps place the needs and experiences of real people front and center throughout the development process. Product managers can identify and address usability issues by incorporating user feedback and testing throughout the development process, resulting in a better overall user experience.
Product management also helps to facilitate collaboration and communication between different teams involved in software development, including developers, designers, testers, and stakeholders. Product managers can ensure that everyone is aligned and working towards the same goals by providing clear direction and priorities, resulting in more efficient and effective software development.
Ultimately, incorporating effective product management from the start delivers a better product for the users.
What are the benefits of lowering the time tax?
Better user experiences mean lowering the time tax, which translates to several benefits for organizations, including:
Increased user productivity: When users can complete tasks more quickly and efficiently, they can accomplish more in less time. This can lead to increased productivity and a better overall user experience.
Improved user satisfaction: Users are more likely to be satisfied with a software product when they can complete tasks quickly and easily. By reducing the time tax, software products can deliver a more positive user experience, leading to higher user satisfaction.
Reduced support costs: Users who can complete tasks more quickly and efficiently are less likely to require support or assistance.
Better public experiences: When government employees are happy, the public they serve is more likely to be satisfied, as a recent article in Harvard Business Review underscores.
How are OPEXUS solutions reducing the time tax?
Our FOIAXpress solution is unique because it has both a public-facing and internal interface. The public submits FOIA requests directly into FOIAXpress via the agency’s website. Once in the system, agency employees use FOIAXpress to process each request and communicate back to the individual making the request. Ensuring the best experience possible will help increase public confidence and make the government more transparent by improving the timeliness of responding to requests.
Contact us to learn more about how the next generation of FOIAXpress could transform your agency’s FOIA processes and compliance.