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Experience debt versus technical debt – how do we find the balance?

It is no news that we are all focused on maximising our digital presence, especially in the public sector where there is an eagerness to catch up and avoid gaining technical debt. However, in adopting and maintaining new digital processes, the public sector has found itself often neglecting the question of how to deliver a good digital experience for the citizen, leading to a newer concern – which we call ‘experience debt’. It seems that the balance between the technology and the citizen is one that requires consideration.

Of course, the emergence of technologies to improve processes, such as automation and cloud-based technology, is an accelerator here, and teams in the public sector are seeing themselves with a wealth of newly adopted digital systems and processes out of necessity. This wave of new systems seemingly addressed the pitfalls of legacy tech on the surface –but there is evidence that these systems are still failing to completely address citizen needs.

It’s easy to cut corners with the content when time-related pressures are looming. However, hastily maturing technology risks ignoring problems that may surface later down the line. This means that while there is sophisticated technology in place now, the substance within them isn’t fully formed and doesn’t address the citizen experience. The link between technology and the citizen remains disconnected in many instances, despite good intentions – which we call this ’experience debt’.

How do we define a ‘good’ digital experience?

Digital products need to be friendly, simple, and useful. Data and insight are essential to this journey. At the Granicus Experience Group (GXG), we strive for the best outcomes for citizens by taking a human-centred approach to everything we develop. Cutting back the layers of jargon and impressive technical capacity to deliver intelligence the customer actually needs.

GXG helps the public service make sure people can do what they need to do as simply as possible – so that they succeed the first time, with the minimum help. We apply this to all aspects of the citizen experience: accessing services, keeping informed, getting involved, looking for help, and finding help for others.

Using proprietary data, user research, and staff engagement, GXG ensures that all digital engagement is human-centred to help achieve specific goals.

The wider picture

The effects of experience debt reach further than we expect and contribute to a wider set of issues we are seeing across technology in the public sector. Digital accessibility, digital inclusion, digital poverty – citizens are being disconnected from the current state of digital public services, in a way that could be solved with open dialogue.

There needs to be clear, ongoing communication between the public sector and the citizen, as well as dedicated time to researching about your key demographic. If you want perspectives to inform your trajectory, you need online responses. To get responses, you need to establish a good online experience to offer. The process of research, before the change, is pivotal to delivering a digital experience that is informed and beneficial to the user.