Governments have come a long way in using data to improve citizens’ lives. But one area that could still use improvement is setting detailed goals to boost citizens’ experiences with government agency websites, apps and campaigns.
A first and crucial step is to translate a government agency’s goals into performance indicators for digital assets. This has been covered well in this article.
After that, the government agency needs to find the best way to measure progress. That’s where a good analytics platform comes in. The platform should be configured to collect data in a responsible way and output metrics that reflect the agency’s goals. Proper setup is crucial and unfortunately not all commercial platforms are fit for use in the public sector.
The Right Goals and Metrics for Government Agencies
Similar to private sector organizations, a government agency should create a tracking plan. In business, key performance indicators reflect metrics such as sales targets and customer lifetime value. For the public sector, indicators of citizen experience are most likely to be at the center of the tracking plan.
Pew Research data shows that American citizens visit government websites for information (49%), documents (41%) and services (33%). Reducing the number of actions citizens need to reach their goal is the best way to improve their experience.
Analysts need to pick metrics that best capture citizens’ online actions for a given agency. This means tracking more than data related to the last action or end goal, such as a form submittal or file download.
Analysts should seek to measure every step of the citizen journey, from entering a website to the actions leading up to goal completion. Every page a citizen needs to pass through can generate pain points. The chosen metrics should identify those pain points so they can be minimized or eliminated. Here are the main categories to think about, with a couple example metrics for each:
- Site navigation: referral pages, page click-through rates and bounce rates.
- Content: single page scroll depth and website search rate.
- Services: contact form submissions and logins to secure areas.
Analytics frameworks for the public sector can also help guide analysts. For example, you can read more about the Dutch FTG framework, created by Deloitte’s Toon Vuursteen.
Government-Specific Requirements for Analytics
Individuals are more sensitive than ever about how organizations—public and private—treat their personal data online. Trusted public organizations should set an example for responsible handling of data. Many government agencies process sensitive information such as health, tax and court records. On top of that, websites and apps generate a vast amount of personally identifiable information, such as IPs, page browsing histories and online identifiers.
Government agencies should collect as little PII as possible, an approach known as data minimization. Minimizing PII reduces the consequences of hacks or data leaks. It should be coupled with a clear set of digital rights. Citizens should be able to opt out of data collection and access or remove any data collected. This maintains trust in public institutions by drawing a clear line between data collection for profit, as seen often in the private sector, and data collection in service of improving citizens’ access to public information and services.
Data Ownership and Control
Government agencies should maintain full control over the collected data. Analytics platforms that pass information to third parties for advertising purposes shouldn’t be used. Full data ownership means that the agency has full knowledge of where data is stored. Any time a citizen requests a data change or deletion, the agency knows exactly where to modify the data.
Public cloud storage is often not the best choice in this regard. Private cloud and on-premises hosting are generally better options to guarantee full data ownership and control.
Reports and Access to Data
The analytics platform should flexibly present metrics in reports, both graphs and tables, and provide access to raw data.
Looking at data presented in user-friendly reports makes it easier for all stakeholders to understand what the data is saying about citizens’ experiences online. Even with flexible reporting tools, it’s unlikely that all your needs will be met. Access to raw data assures that the data is yours to export and use in any other external tools your agency uses.
Closing the Loop
Government agencies already have in place many of the key performance indicators needed to improve citizens’ digital experiences. They need to close the loop by combining those indicators with reliable data and specific analytics goals. Luckily, there are already many analytics frameworks and platforms to help agencies start improving online interactions with citizens.
Piotr Korzeniowski is the chief operating officer at Piwik PRO.