Alec Chalmers is responsible for Adobe's National Government Solutions Business, including the national state and local government
market, as well as select Federal Civilian agencies.
Prior to Adobe, Alec worked at Symantec and Veritas Software, where he successfully led numerous sales organizations throughout the public sector to include: state and local government, education, and healthcare; Department of Defense; and advanced technologies.
As Vice President of National Government Solutions within Adobe's US Public Sector, Alec is responsible for the growth, leadership, and overall sales performance of this division. His focus is on providing customers solutions that allow them to effectively engage with their citizens, employees, and business partners in key government processes while increasing their efficiency, lowering their costs, and reducing their impact on the environment.
Alec is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and served in the United States Navy as an intelligence officer. Alec, his wife Maryanne, and their two children reside in Leesburg, VA.
Last week I had the opportunity to hear Linda Cureton (@curetonl), NASA CIO, at FedScoop’s 3rd Annual Lowering the Cost of Government with IT Summit in Washington DC, an event at which I also spoke (see the brief video we shot below). Linda was the first speaker of the morning and her presentation really resonated with me and the way we at Adobe are trying to help agencies lower the cost of government. She grabbed my attention early on, admittedly after a tough morning at the house, with her admonition “don’t eat your young”. She made many other great points such as: Don’t be penny-wise and pound foolish; and Measure twice, cut once. However, it was her “don’t eat your young” statement that I want to concentrate on for this post.
Linda made the point to urge her peers to view innovation as critical for survival. I couldn’t agree more during these times of budget cuts, budget deficits, and the necessity of having to do more with less. As IT leaders, this is the time to innovate. History teaches us that we have always come out of crisis periods stronger and this will be no different. As government IT leaders, we’ve got to change our way of thinking and Linda drove this point home for me and the audience. Innovation comes from every part of the organization, young, old or just plain-old middle aged like me. As Linda noted, we must encourage new money-saving ideas to continue to provide the services our citizens need.
There’s been much written as of late regarding the consumerization of IT, especially in regards to consolidation and virtualization of our data centers and infrastructures. As Linda noted in her presentation, the low-hanging fruit has been picked. I agree. Government agencies I speak to regularly have all standardized on commodity technologies like virtualization, storage, and networking. We’ve got to move up the stack now and focus on the application layer and how we can consumerize that and make it easier for citizens to engage with their governments on their terms (in person, on the phone, or online) and device (PC, Mac, tablet, mobile). If you’re a government IT leader and you’re looking for ways to save money, look no further. Driving citizen interactions online and off of the phone or a piece of paper will save you money. However, it does take thought and measurement.
That’s what we’re focused on at Adobe, trying to help government agencies move more and more of their interactions online. To drive that online adoption you’ve got to simplify and make that online experience engaging and intuitive. If it’s too hard to figure out online, I know what I personally do. I either skip to another site (not an option for citizens) or I hop on the phone (an expensive option for agencies). At Adobe, we help governments create rich online content with the world’s best digital editing tools. We help move this content online and streamline business processes with best of breed enterprise solutions like the Adobe Digital Enterprise Platform, which helps you leverage the current investments you’ve made in ERP and document management systems. After you’ve moved content and business processes online you need to ensure people like me aren’t abandoning your site because it’s too hard or complicated. We help ensure that doesn’t happen with our Online Marketing Suite. As Linda might say we help you measure twice and cut once, be penny wise, and also help keep your young safe and sound…
In my last post I discussed the concept of customer or citizen experience in government and focusing on how we as citizens want to engage with our government on our terms, and on the device we’re currently heads down on (unless, of course, we’re driving!). So where do you begin if you’re a government employee trying to focus on your “customer”?
While simple, you should begin by focusing on the outside in. Truly focus on that citizen first and not on the sometimes byzantine rules and stove-piped systems you may already have in place. Easier said than done, I know, but it really is how you begin to transform the way your agency deals with its customers, both internal and external.
How many times have you been to a doctor’s office, motor vehicle agency, or applied for a permit and had to write your address down more than one time? How many times have you had to read the manual of instructions on how to fill out the form or wait in line to discuss with someone the process to determine eligibility for a grant, license, or benefit? Compare this to the first time you used a social media application like Facebook or LinkedIn. How hard was that? Was there an instruction manual you had to pore over before you got online and started sharing photos and stories with all those “friends” in your network? Of course not, that’s what makes it so fun (perhaps dangerous in some cases!) but most importantly that’s what keeps people engaged and online, and coming back for more. I’m not sure we’re ever going to make renewing your driver’s license or applying for unemployment benefits “fun” but we can make the process more intuitive and keep more and more people online rather than in a line. That’s where the savings come into play.
Last year 70% of the individual tax returns in the US were filed electronically. Do you know how much money that saved the IRS? Hundreds of millions of dollars according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). For every electronically filed return the IRS saves $3.10. “In addition to reducing costs, e-filing provides higher accuracy rates, improved convenience, and faster processing and refunds for taxpayers.” To me, that sounds like a great customer (and agency) experience. How is this happening? Most of this electronic filing is taking place with the assistance of great software from Intuit and H&R Block that takes users through a complex (sound familiar?) tax code/business process and breaks it down to a nice and easy interview. They have essentially broken down a tax code that is thousands of pages of not-too-easy-to-read instructions and have made it a breeze (for most) to complete their taxes.
Government agencies are beginning to see this kind of experience is just what they need to do in times of budget reductions. Adobe has helped many government agencies follow this same approach. We look forward to sharing some examples with you as we move forward. In the meantime, let us know if you’d like to talk with us more about it. You can reach me via comments, on Twitter @alec_chalmers, and also connect with the Adobe Gov team on Twitter @AdobeGov.
I recently had the opportunity to speak at FedScoop’s Citizen Engagement and OpenGov Summit here in Washington DC (if you haven’t, check out this brief video we shot directly afterward) It was a great event and I followed the GSA’s Director of the Center for Customer Excellence, Sheila Campbell, and her great presentation on customer experience.
“Hold on a second”, I said to myself after Sheila began her remarks. She just used the words “customer” and “experience” together, in the same sentence, at a government-focused event. As you may know, we’ve been talking a lot about Customer Experience Management (CEM) at Adobe. And I’ll admit I’ve been a little skeptical about use of the term “customer” in terms of government (ie, governments don’t have customers, they have citizens). Not so fast! I was now being corrected by Sheila and she wasn’t even 30 seconds into her discussion. I was sitting up straighter in my chair, paying very close attention now, and I was positive Mrs. Gregg, my favorite teacher of all time, would have been very proud of me and amazed at how far I have advanced since the 10th grade.
Luckily I had the opportunity to adapt some of my presentation after Sheila’s and it was good to really talk about CEM from the customer’s point of view. For governments it really doesn’t matter whether you call it Citizen or Customer Experience Management, the important part is that you focus on that experience.
But who really has the budget right now to worry about experience when you have so many other pressing issues in front of you: Budget deficits, do more with less, mission accomplishment, and the list goes on. Oh yeah, and while you’re doing all that ensure your citizens, employees, and soldiers are fully engaged in the process and make sure that “they’ll tell two friends, and so on, and so on.” Well, here’s what I think: You can and should focus on that citizen and customer experience now more than ever because it truly can ensure you do more with less while delivering on those ever-rising expectations.
Today’s citizens (just like every dot com customer, and really, aren’t they the same person?) have the expectation their experience with their government will be (or should be) similar to the experience they just had where they learned about a cool book online and then purchased it on their smartphone on the way to work. They want to interact with their government on their terms, when they want and need to, and on the devices (desktop, laptop, tablet, phone, TV) to which they have access.
Great, but how does all of this save governments money? Maybe I’m being simple, but if you can educate your citizens on the services they’re entitled to while they’ve stumbled upon your website, then begin them on the path to an eligibility process on a smartphone (all while enabling them to avoid a call center or brick and mortar government office) you’ve saved money in at least a few places right there.
You also just made your process a heck of a lot more efficient while delighting your customer…oops, I meant citizen.
How can you start down this path? That’ll be for my next post…