How agencies can reshape online and in-person services delivery

Originally published in GCN.

As the pandemic winds down, it is becoming more likely that not everyone will go back to working or doing business in an in-person environment full-time. Agencies at every level of government have worked to bring their services and benefits and procedures in line with modern digital systems as citizens and employees alike expect automated and convenient processes like those available at online businesses. It falls to IT professionals to envision and implement the technology that keeps workers productive no matter where they are and helps government seamlessly provide the services people need.

Over the last two years, agencies have learned which services can be moved online and which processes must still be done in person. A growing list of government services can be handled via the internet, including paying fines, getting permits (hunting, fishing vehicles) or applying for a marriage, birth or death certificate. However, agencies like the motor vehicles department require in-person experience for some transactions. Additionally, there will be a percentage of the population will need to access to services in-person due to things like a lack of internet access or personal preference.

The pandemic also taught agencies the importance of safety for front-line workers and customers. Large groups of people waiting in line for service were acceptable in 2019 but not in 2022. Agencies must embrace innovative and secure ways to conduct in-person processes with minimal risk of disease transmission. Advanced scheduling software is the key. When leveraged appropriately, it requires fewer staff members in the office at any one time and enables crowd control measures like social distancing. Organizations that deploy these types of applications can also streamline and modernize their processes.

Scheduling software can change the entire model for agencies that depend on face-to-face assistance, like the post office, DMV or traffic court. IT departments can set up systems that allow citizens to pre-book appointments instead of just showing up and waiting in line. Walk-ins can still be accommodated by utilizing kiosks that collect a person’s basic information (reason for visit, phone number) and place them in a virtual queue. The system can give the user an estimated wait time, allowing them to grab a coffee or do some shopping, eliminating the physical line and minimizing crowding in enclosed spaces.

Another benefit of these systems is that the data collected by the scheduling software (both online and from kiosks) can be used to “right-size” the number of employees needed in the office, allowing the rest to work remotely. The footprint of government offices could also shrink dramatically to account for the controlled rate at which customers will arrive, allowing for the repurposing of much of this space.

Digitizing the face of service delivery requires a greater emphasis on cybersecurity, and companies that provide digital queuing software must include top-of-the-line security features. Secure, cloud-based software solutions can help agencies manage the deluge of personal data they collect as more aspects of citizens’ lives go online.

Whether people continue to physically visit government offices or conduct their business online, agency IT teams will still be monitoring efficiency and security. The most successful teams will be those willing to embrace the newest innovations, such as machine learning, virtual queuing and ever-improving connectivity.