Like it or not, government services face many of the same pressures that companies face. Companies like Amazon.com, USAA, Disney, and Zappos.com raise customer expectations when they deliver stellar service. As they raise the bar, other companies and government agencies risk getting fired when they fail to deliver the value that customers expect, make customers jump through hoops to access it, or begrudgingly deliver it through unengaged employees. Customers and citizens simply choose to take their money elsewhere.
It’s through this lens that I’ve watched the recent battles over state budgets and public employees along with their unions. When citizens don’t perceive they're getting a good value for the buck, they take their money elsewhere, even if that is through the ballot box — no wonder, when the citizen experience is so often sub-par.
Here are a few examples I’ve witnessed just in the past couple weeks: A group of on-duty cops spend an hour drinking coffee in Starbucks when people don’t feel comfortable walking around the streets a few blocks away; DMV workers look bored and move at the pace of sloths while I spend an hour waiting in line, even though they’re likely making way more money than the waitress at a local restaurant who’s super-friendly and efficient; a public transportation worker holds a sign at a street car stop urging people to smile, even when the lines often experience large delays; a gruff postal worker begrudgingly gets off his stool to get my package and then throws it on the counter.
I visited a client recently, a large company with global operations and a large application delivery organization. A senior VP in charge of a large part of that organization told me an interesting story about its experience with a change in the way it approaches EA over the past few years. In brief, he said:
“A few years ago our architects were mostly dispersed into various parts of the delivery organization; we didn’t have an EA group.
“Then we recognized that we needed an EA group to better manage our use of technology, so we pulled those people out of delivery and formed them into an EA group.
“Since then EA has spent a lot of time understanding our business, building capability maps, and focusing on a more strategic level.
“But now I’m hearing cries of anguish from the delivery teams that they don’t have enough direct engagement and support from the architects in their delivery efforts. The delivery teams are concerned that EA has moved too far away from the actual delivery of business value, that EAs are not helping enough, and that it’s harming the effectiveness of the delivery organization.”