Every day over 21,000 people use U.S. government websites. Given this, incorporating the needs of millions of users while modernizing on a large scale can be daunting. Karsun Solutions President Terry Miller joins John Gilroy and the Federal Tech Podcast to share how a product mindset combined with Karsun’s Digital Transformation toolkits enable agencies to meet their mission while meeting the expectations of its users.
The Product Mindset
In the interview, Miller describes how legacy application modernization can get bogged down by a focus on adding functionality over a focus on the product as a whole. He notes by taking a product mindset, technology teams instead consider the purpose of the product and what it is supposed to do for its users. This goes beyond adding features or modernizing to meet new requirements. Instead, product mindset oriented modernization considers the long-term vision for the product. It involves stakeholders from the beginning to ensure their vision is part of the collective vision. This includes adopting feedback loops, like those used in human centered design, to ensure consistent input from the beginning.
Toolkits Accelerate Transformation
Miller explained the second part of Karsun’s approach to design at scale is its Digital Transformation Toolkits. These resources and playbooks accelerate transformation as Karsun begins its modernization process. For example, the Digital Transformation Design Toolkit uses a system of 40 different components enabling our developers to quickly create U.S. Web Design System (USWDS) standards compliant interfaces. This allows rapid interaction from prototype to production while engaging the frequent feedback cycle needed for product mindset development. Miller mentions Karsun’s new Design for Every Next whitepaper dives deeper into this relationship. Produced by the Karsun Innovation Center, the paper examines user experience throughout the modernization process.
The podcast is out now. Tune in to the Federal Tech Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or at https://www.theoakmontgroupllc.com/ep-73-how-to-build-federal-systems-for-scale-and-resilience/.
Over 21,000 people visit U.S. government websites each day. The annual paperwork burden for executive departments and agencies exceeds 9 billion hours. Adopting next-generation user experience practices can address these challenges. By considering the needs of all stakeholders, designing for scale can improve the user experience, reducing paperwork and empowering agencies to meet their mission no matter the changing digital landscape.
In 2021, the Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government called on agencies to improve government performance while using proven best practices such as human centered design and service delivery models. We must embed the user experience in the process to meet these requirements as early as possible. It compels us to take a long view. We should take a product oriented mindset that asks not how we can introduce a particular feature or functionality but how the product itself will be used past the completion of a modernization project.
We have applied this approach to modernization projects for our customers in the acquisitions, aviation, and grants management industries. Aligning to industry standards, some of our applications see more than 1 million registered users. Using repeatable processes, we enable User Experience/User Interface (UI/UX) on a massive scale as we modernize complex systems for our agency customers. We collect our best practices, resources, and components into toolkits used by our teams. Now we have assembled our insights into a white paper from our Karsun Innovation Center.
Our new Design for Every Next white paper takes you step by step through this process. From building your data capabilities to effectively analyzing stakeholder needs to creating effective feedback loops. We also share best practices and strategies for leveraging emerging technologies to implement new enhancements quickly. We also share our component-based approach to rapidly iterating and prototyping interfaces. Part of our Digital Transformation Toolkits, our Design Toolkit ensures teams have the resources and expertise to accelerate transformation with a comprehensive view of stakeholder needs and wants. Download the white paper at https://karsun-llc.com/resource/design-for-every-next-2/.
Promote Transparency is one of the three Ethical Governance Principles in the Federal Data Strategy. This 10-year vision statement drives agencies across the government to build better tools to bring valuable insights to decision makers and citizens. Nowhere is this clearer than in government dashboards and data visualizations which must clearly communicate complex information in a meaningful manner for their users.
Modernizing Legacy Dashboards
Leveraging its business intelligence and visualization expertise, Karsun recently engaged in such a dashboard modernization project with one of its government customers. This customer was charged with delivering a dashboard that provides insights to both internal stakeholders and key decision-makers outside the organization. The goal was to allow users to access the dashboard for data-driven decision-making while enhancing transparency and adhering to the Conscious Design principles outlined in the Federal Data Strategy.
An on-premise legacy application added complexity to the modernization project. Moreover, the previous dashboard was built by different vendors with a mix of features and functionality. As a result, Karsun’s customer needed to provide a new, user-friendly dashboard. It also strove to limit human error with the data submission and ingestion process while seeing a decrease in operations and maintenance costs. Using a modularized approach, the customer wanted one, coherent dashboard. The customer envisioned a streamlined data submission process while reducing the time required for making new data sets available and improving speed-to-insight.
Combining Design and Data Expertise
The Karsun Data Practice uses DataOps to bring together data platform and engineering with business intelligence and visualization expertise. In doing so, it worked with its customer to deliver a solution that not only used DataOps principles but also incorporated best practices for usability, accessibility, and visualization within the dashboard.
Working with the on-premise application and within the requirements set by another project partner, Karsun built the data objects. Backend microservices utilizing RESTful API fetched data from an API service call and prepared the visualization using the Python Plotly visualization library. Those visualizations are then delivered as a JSON object.
An additional component to dashboard modernization is user experience. The President’s Executive Order on Customer Experience compels the government to design and deliver services “with a focus on the actual experience of the people whom it is meant to serve.” As practitioners, this order draws the spotlight to a range of design methodologies intended to enhance accessibility, transparency, and equity for all users.
This project used human centered design (HCD), putting user needs, desires, and abilities at the center of the process. This also uses iterative feedback from each step to inform the analysis. Seeking clarity at each step, it transitions the dashboard away from a mixed experience that’s difficult for users to navigate and hard for the customer to maintain.
It uses a three step process. The first step is Demand Side Analysis. This engages users at the earliest opportunity through interviews and surveys. The team also conducts a Prior Usage Analysis. Next, they design a User Centered Service Delivery Model. This incorporates Design Thinking, Service Design, and Detailed Design. Finally, they again Engage Product Users by introducing Mock-Ups, Prototypes, and Wireframes. After iterating through these three steps, the team identified and built an application layer on a PHP/Drupal framework allowing for easy content manipulation without requiring technical knowledge.
User Friendly, Data Driven Insights at Lower Cost
This modernization project sunsetted legacy infrastructure and reduced high-cost maintenance. The new dashboard application further streamlined data collection, introduced omnichannel distribution of IT data, and improved the overall user experience. Moreover, by improving the process through human centered design, the customer improved the user’s ability to make evidence based decisions.
This project not only enhanced user experience it also supported requests for better data-driven decision making in government. While modernization projects frequently address high maintenance costs, human centered design adds an additional element. Improved user experience not only saves money, it enhances both accessibility and transparency, delivering better government to all.
About Karsun Solutions
Karsun Solutions modernizes enterprise systems enabling agencies to make the next technological advancement their next opportunity to elevate mission capability. IT solutions from Karsun are tailored to meet agencies’ unique needs and optimize operations. These solutions adapt and stay relevant to current trends while using secure, digital architecture built to last. It is a proven modernization partner whose expertise elevates agency capabilities and ensures every next opportunity is within reach.
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