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Shaping the Next Decade of Government Services: The IntelliBridge Approach to UX

By Brad Nunnally, Design Principal – Homeland & National Security

In the last decade, we have witnessed a major change in government digital services, underscored by the creation of the US Digital Service (USDS) and 18F, along with legislative and executive actions such as the 21st Century IDEA Act and the Customer Experience Executive Order. This change is due to the government’s deepened commitment to user experience (UX), which includes looking beyond just aesthetic improvements to user interfaces, aiming instead to create meaningful connections with members of the public in the United States and abroad.

This refocus on the design and development of government digital services aligns with how companies like IntelliBridge have had to mature over the past decade, aiming to design, develop, and support government services to be more accessible and user centered.

At IntelliBridge, we have invested in teams that specialize in modernized solutions like customer experience, product management and leadership, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and data science. This investment has allowed us to provide more advanced technologies and user-centric services to ensure the programs we manage meet the needs of the general public and align with the mission and needs of our government customers. Examples of this include the IntelliBridge Product and Experience Studios, which explore new products and services to help government agencies modernize and evolve their digital services to better meet today’s demands.

Leading with Discovery

A major component in the success of building or enhancing government digital services begins with a robust discovery phase. This initial step is more than simply scheduling stakeholder meetings; it is a process that fosters a shared understanding and creates alignment between teams and our customers’ missions, along with an empathetic understanding of user needs. By following a discovery process that is cross-functional and inclusive by design, IntelliBridge-managed programs can adhere to requirements and identify opportunities that result in real impact for both our customers and the people utilizing their digital services. 

We use methods from our FAST Toolkit, developed internally, to provide defined strategies and collaboration methods that quickly get us up to speed on a program’s problem spaces and collect domain knowledge necessary for informing strategic plans and prototyping efforts. This process sets up our follow-on design and development efforts, ensuring we extend beyond mere contractual compliance to make a real difference for the people who may want, or need, the services the government provides. Our customers can quickly see results that allow them to better plan, fund, and organize around solutions that are backed by subject matter expertise and user feedback, enabling them to make data-backed decisions with confidence. 

Fostering Trust Within Teams and Customers

At IntelliBridge, we often find ourselves building, or working on, teams comprised of multiple vendors and internal teams within our customer base. One core IntelliBridge principle is to establish a solid foundation of trust across all team members, including those from the customer side. High trust levels within the team have a strong correlation with high performance and overall quality of delivery. This principle is put into practice by facilitating strategic planning sessions with team leads and leaders. These sessions enable the team to define shared goals informed directly by team members, enabling candid discussions and in-depth exploration of challenges.

We consistently strive to maintain a philosophy of treating the team as a single entity, regardless of where or from whom individual team members work. This mutual understanding and purpose drive our programs and teams forward, significantly impacting customer and user experiences. It allows team members to ask for help, admit mistakes, and support each other, knowing they can rely on one another. Additionally, leaders are viewed as sources of support when challenges arise, ensuring teams know their leaders will be right there with them to address current issues.

Meeting the Rising Demand for UX in Government

The landscape of government digital services is rapidly evolving, with a growing demand for skilled designers and researchers. This trend is evident not only by the increase in designers and UX researchers hired by the government but also by our initiatives at IntelliBridge to expand our design organizations and practices to better serve our customers. IntelliBridge collaborates with our customers to anticipate the rising demand for skilled UX professionals, leading by example to build design teams and practices that set new standards in government service delivery. We can better inform overall program scope, strategic direction, and quality of delivery by ensuring that decisions are informed by user-centered design methods and techniques to best serve our customers’ end-users.

This trend is not just limited to the federal level and federal government contractors; digital services such as the Colorado Digital Services and the Philadelphia Digital Services are being established to tackle challenges and problems that exist at the state- and local-levels. This development highlights the increasing recognition of design’s role in building or enhancing service accessibility and usability.

Collaborative Teamwork and Stakeholder Engagement

Building or enhancing government digital services requires a collective effort and strong partnerships, utilizing robust design leadership and ongoing stakeholder engagement. We treat our programs with our customers as partnerships rather than traditional customer/vendor relationships. One strategy we utilize is establishing Communities of Practice within our programs, inviting anyone from across the program to join, whether they are federal employees or members of other program teams. These communities are based on domain expertise rather than specific skill sets, fostering inclusion and providing educational resources for those seeking to learn new skills.

Our Communities of Practice, such as the User Experience Community, foster cross-disciplinary collaboration and continuous learning, creating an environment where people can learn and share diverse perspectives across teams and programs. On one program at DHS USCIS, our customer took over one of these Communities of Practice and integrated it into their overall organization, furthering our shared investment between program leaders and customer stakeholders and ensuring our solutions reflect diverse viewpoints, thereby enhancing the overall design and development process.

Measuring Our Impact

The success of IntelliBridge programs is measured through a blend of qualitative insights and quantitative data, gathered directly from our customers, partners, and through end-user research. We use industry-standard feedback methods to facilitate healthy stakeholder engagement and user engagement, garnering consistent feedback that serves as qualitative indicators of successful program and team delivery. By aligning our design and research methods with 18F’s established frameworks, we ensure our solutions are directly informed by user feedback and grounded in best practices, leading to more impactful and user-centric outcomes.

To capture more quantitative data, we utilize analytics via services like Google Analytics or Matomo to assess user interactions, error rates, system performance, risk evaluation, and other critical metrics. This quantitative data provides our teams and customers with the ability to make informed decisions, allowing us to refine our approaches over time.

The Road Ahead for UX Professionals

The need for well-designed digital services within the government sector is here to stay, supported by legislative and executive backing for digital services. The growing demand for tech roles within the government highlights new opportunities for design leadership in public services, whether as a public servant or as an external partner working with IntelliBridge. We offer opportunities for UX professionals and design leaders to make a measurable impact, providing the tools, community, and support needed to improve government digital services.

For new UX professionals and design leaders, the call to action is clear: the government digital services sector offers a valuable path for professional growth and the opportunity to create meaningful impact with your career. The work of enhancing public sector services through UX is rewarding and a necessary part of modernizing and evolving government services. Join us at IntelliBridge in this vital and fulfilling journey, contributing your skills and passion to shape the future of public digital services for the better.

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