April 01, 2015

Accenture Survey Shows Federal Agencies See Benefits of Digital Tools, but Concerns About Costs, Budgets Remain

ARLINGTON, Va.; April 1, 2015 More than two years after the White House announced its Digital Government Strategy to better meet citizen needs, federal agencies report positive outcomes from digital services, but remain concerned over budget constraints and costs of implementation, according to survey research conducted by Accenture Federal Services and Government Business Council.

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The survey research was designed to assess the perceptions, attitudes and experiences regarding digital collaboration and service delivery of nearly 400 senior-level executives across more than 30 U.S. federal defense and civilian agencies. The findings are outlined in a report, Delivering on Digital Government.

According to the report, government executives believe digital services help drive improved collaboration within and across federal organization and help harness emerging technologies to enable people – and an increasingly mobile workforce – to access high quality information and government services.

The survey indicates that three in four respondents identified positive outcomes from digital services, including improved employee efficiency or productivity (selected by 49 percent of respondents) and increased ease of service delivery to citizens (48 percent). More than one-third (37 percent) said that digital tools also save customers time.

Yet only 33 percent of respondents said they had realized cost savings by implementing digital tools. In fact, the majority of respondents (63 percent) cite limited budgets as the biggest barrier to digital adoption, with 50 percent reporting that agencies are not allocating an appropriate level of funding to support digital tools and services.

“Today’s world is a digital world, and citizens expect their government to follow suit,” said Chris Zinner, who leads Accenture’s digital work with federal agencies. “By embracing digital technology, citizens’ experiences with federal agencies will become more personal, agencies will be able to better manage both internal and external collaboration and federal employees will have better tools to help them do their job.”

As a follow on to its Digital Government Strategy, last summer the White House released the U.S. Digital Services Playbook, listing top government digital priorities, including identifying best practices for digital delivery, thinking more about customer needs when designing services, recruiting talented employees with experience creating modern digital services and having a clear strategy to incorporate digital tools and services to accomplish agency mission.

According to Accenture’s research, federal agencies are using digital tools to support customers and employees, with executives ranking their agency as either excellent or good at using digital tools for customer service (51 percent), customer engagement (49 percent), and employee engagement (43 percent).

Websites are the digital tools most commonly used to serve customers, cited by 83 percent of respondents. Other commonly used tools include online knowledge base/Frequently Asked Questions (53 percent), telephone self-service (49 percent) and social media (48 percent). However, only one-quarter of respondents said their agency uses text messages/SMS (short message service) (25 percent), customer relationship management (CRM) tools (24 percent), mobile apps (23 percent) or web chats (21 percent) as part of the digital tools used to serve customers and employees.

Agencies received mixed reviews on their use of digital tools to support internal or interagency collaboration, with about 40 percent rating collaboration as satisfactory or good. But within agencies, 86 percent of respondents said they use at least one digital tool to collaborate within their organizations or other agencies, with 40 percent saying they use three or more tools, the most common being internal knowledge base/ FAQs, SharePoint, employee chat/instant messaging and internal social networking tools.

The biggest barriers to enabling digital government are budget constraints (cited by 63 percent of respondents) – with 50 percent saying their department or agency is not allocating an appropriate level of spending for digital tools and services – followed by security/privacy issues (57 percent), technical infrastructure (44 percent), coordination across organizations (42 percent), cultural resistance (42 percent), and technical skills (42 percent).

Four in five respondents (81 percent) respondents cited a lack of relevant skills among current staff as a challenge. Respondents identified a number of skillsets needed at their agency, including creative design/user experience (43 percent), project management (43 percent), digital strategy development (42 percent) and analytics/data science (40 percent).

Respondents also said they are looking for a clear strategy with more than half (51 percent) of respondents indicating their agency’s leadership has not articulated a clear strategy to incorporate digital tools and services to accomplish the mission; 13 percent said they were not aware of any strategies or plans their agencies had regarding digital tools or services.

Accenture Federal Services is a U.S. company, with offices in Arlington, Va., and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Accenture LLP. Accenture’s federal business has served every cabinet-level department and 30 of the largest federal organizations with clients at defense, intelligence, public safety, civilian and military health organizations.

Learn more about Accenture’s work with federal agencies and Delivering Public Service for the Future.

To assess the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of federal executives regarding digital collaboration and service delivery, Government Business Council (GBC) surveyed 386 senior-level federal employees in September 2014. Respondents include GS11 to GS15 levels and members of the Senior Executive Services in more than 30 defense and civilian agencies.

About Accenture
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with more than 323,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The company generated net revenues of US$30.0 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2014. Its home page is www.accenture.com.

About Government Business Council
Government Business Council (GBC), the research arm of Government Executive Media Group, is dedicated to advancing the business of government through analysis and insight. GBC partners with industry to share best practices with top government decision makers, understanding the deep value inherent in industry’s experience engaging and supporting federal agencies.

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