How do your customers feel about dealing with government?

29 Mar

Leave it to The Onion to make something this good:

Prague’s Franz Kafka International Named World’s Most Alienating Airport

Is this how your customers feel about dealing with government?


Company 2.0?

28 Mar

1. Creating value by valuing people. Alan Mulally is fiercely realistic about the steep challenge Ford faces, but he’s infectiously upbeat about their ability to meet it and he makes the people around him feel good, including about themselves. He truly understands that only positive emotions fuel sustainable high performance and that the more valued people feel, the more they’re freed and inspired to create more value.

2. Transparency rules. My colleague Annie Perrin and I began our day at Ford at 8:00 a.m. by attending Ford’s weekly Business Plan Review, which includes all of its senior executives around the world. Outsiders are regularly invited to observe the meeting. Every executive reports in on any new information that might influence Ford’s overall revenue projections, or any other part of its plan. Mulally operates on the assumption that the truth will set you free, even when it hurts.

3. Personal responsibility. The day we were there, one Ford executive described a significant shortfall on a particular projection. It was the sort of acknowledgement that might have prompted high drama in many boardrooms. In this case, the executive simply went on to list the ways he intended to address the shortfall over the coming days, and invited other suggestions. No energy was wasted in wringing hands or avoiding responsibility or assigning blame. The focus was entirely on solutions.

4. A mission worth believing in. Mulally believes that “to serve is to live” and he has rallied the notoriously factionalized and siloed Ford’s around a shared mission that is simple and compelling: make Ford the leader in quality, safety and fuel efficiency.

He reports that while public opinion hasn’t yet caught up, Ford has made significant progress on all of these goals with US consumer advocate and testing organisation Consumers Union last month recommended 70 per cent of Ford’s vehicles in their magazine Consumer Reports.

In the midst of a perfect storm, Mulally has created a culture in which his team is working together closely to create a new kind of company. When the economic clouds finally do part, these executives have a shared conviction that they’ll emerge, along with Toyota and Volkswagen, as one of the three truly global automobile companies.

It’s a great place to be, and it leaves me wondering how their corporate webmasters and intranet managers/editors have bought into this goal, and how what they are doing is helping to deliver on this major shift in corporate vision. How can we and should we as corporate webmasters, intranet managers and editors use the tools and technologies at our disposal to influence the target consumer to our vision, mission, purpose and goals?.

Key recommendations for e-Government

28 Mar

David Osimo, Managing partner at Tech4i2 ltd and author of the Benchmarking e-government in web 2.0 blog recently posted on his presentation at the Lisbon iGov workshop on web2.0 in public administration.

His presentation is quite interesting and can be found at his post, but one thing which really stuck out for me are his recommendations for e-Government:


  • don’t hyper-protect public data from re-use
  • don’t launch large scale “facade” web2.0 project
  • don’t forbid web 2.0 in the workplace
  • let bottom-up initiatives flourish as barriers to entry are very low


  • publish reusable and machine readable data (XML, RSS, RDFa) > see W3C work
  • adopt web-oriented architecture
  • create a public data catalogue > see Washington DC


  • ensure pervasive broadband
  • create e-skills in and outside government: digital literacy, media literacy, web2.0 literacy, programming skills
  • fund bottom-up initiatives through public procurement, awards
  • reach out trough key intermediaries trusted by the community
  • listen, experiment and learn-by-doing

These are some pretty good guiding rules when it comes to e-Government, and some of these themes are closely alligned with some of the issues i’m intending to write about in the coming weeks and months.

Also, David’s rules also prompted an interesting suggestion from another of his readers, Alberto Cottica:


  • don’t duplicate
  • deploy, then customise
  • let the community steer development

Those suggestions like up pretty well with some of the points I raised in my article on using Twitter within Government yesterday.

An expeirment in Twitter

27 Mar

One of the easiest things an agency can do is communicate using the tools and sites their customers and target audiences are already using. So it was a no-brainer for me eariler this week, when at midnight and still awake under the influence of cold and flu medication I decided it was time for my agency to ‘tweet’.

Why tweet you ask?

It wasn’t exactly a question I asked myself when I made the decision to go for it. Looking back on it, there are a few good reasons to do it.

1. How long before the twitter username your agency might want is already taken?

At the rate things are going, not very long. The name I wanted when setting up an account for our agency was already taken by the Florida Progressive Coalition. I had to think for a few minutes before I finally came up with something short, suitable and memorable.

Already there’s cases where imposters are taking people’s names on twitter, famous for being famous Kim Kardashian being one, Australian Security Intellegance Organisation being another, a fake account for federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy – the operator recently being outed as an employee of communications company Telstra and contends he lost his job as a result of the harmless fun.

And while fakes may be the order of the day with the username you already want, there are some which are useful. An example of this is the Transperth Bot, which collates all the posts on twitter relating to Transperth, the brand for metropolitan public transportation operated by the Public Transport Authority. Granted it’s not Transperth and it is doing something useful – but what if the Public Transport Authority wants an official twitter service to quickly communicate with its customers?

While writing this post, I came across an article from The Next Web, which is a brief how-to for recovering the twitter username you wanted. But the question is when your Agency CEO/CTO or Marketing/Communications Manager comes to you asking to setup an official twitter service – would you rather have something ready to go for them and keep up the reputation of being an miricle worker, or spend a few days in the muck and mire because you’re trying to get that username you really want. It’s exactly what I advised a counterpart earlier this week when in the process of researching what other agencies are up to in this space, and he’s prepared for when his agency wants to go down that path.

2. Your customers are already using it

This requires no further explanation. If you customers are already using the service, why not communicate with them using these channels, reducing your cost of interaction and getting information to them quicker instead of them having to hunt it down and find it.

A good example of this is Tourism Western Australia, who’s twitter account I found while searching for agencies in my area who were already using it. They are the only once I’ve found thus far, and on a one-way communications method they are using it well to notify people of travel deals and offers available from their tourist portal,

Sure, information regarding the discounts, offers and events of interest is already available from the website – but your customers will only find it if they are specifically visiting the website or looking for that information. Twitter is allowing them to push this information out to interested people, and the results are showing having acheived 562 followers in a space of two months.

3. Highlight hidden web content

Most agencies have pretty large websites, and information regarding updates or new content doesn’t always make it to the main page. Sure, you can have a RSS feed or list of recent changes – but why not write something short about the content and push a link to it out on a twitter feed. Takes about 15 seconds to do, and using a hash tag allows you to mark the content so people searching for that information on twitter can find it quickly.

4. Additional communications channel

One of the features of twitter is being able to send @replies and direct messages to communicate amongst twitter users. Once your twittering becomes well established, users will use these to engage with you and get responses to issues and questions.

If your users start to use with them, make sure you engage and engage quickly. Its a good idea to use a toolkit such as Tweetdeck to monitor these and ensure you reply promptly.

Just remember, be careful when it comes to privacy and confidentiality issues. While you can use the service to give basic information or refer people to the right area, don’t provide services, details or support which is normally reserved for once someone’s identity has been confirmed. If it looks like the users problem is diverting into that area, send them a direct message asking for their contact details so you can refer their enquiry onto a specialist for a direct response.

There are some good examples of how companies have used twitter to augment their service, support and enquiry channels to their advantage and benefit, a great example being much derided US internet service provider Comcast. Used smartly and wisely, twitter can become a powerful tool to respond to the needs of unhappy customers, or just demonstrating that their are real people who care working for your agency.

5. It’s easy

It doesn’t take much to get setup and start using twitter – as long as your agencies’ IT group doesn’t block access to it. If they do, it shouldn’t be hard to get them to remove the block citing your social media strategy, or at the very least get a privilege escalation so you can access and use the site to communicate for your agency.

Anyway, that’s a quick summary of the reasons of why I’ve gone down the twitter road. I’ll be seeing how this little expeirment goes over the next few months and I’ll keep you posted on the results.


27 Mar

Well, this is the inagural post here, so it might be a good time to introduce myself.

I’m Michael Harris, and I’m a long time Government webmaster, having spent the past eight years working in the sector dealing with issues of web management and communication.

My current assignment is as a web manager for medium-sized trading Government enterprise in the environmental sector. I’ve been there for the last 2 1/2 years, and took over what was a outdated, poorly managed online communications infrastructure and have since had to drag it kicking and screaming into the new millennium. The environment hadn’t had a permanent web manager for nearly three years, so of course while the original intent of the systems and services was sound, there had been no strategic management or direction, and as such had been left to just fall by the wayside and held together with duct tape and bandaids.

I’ve been wanting to set this blog up for a while now, partly to share my experiences in eGovernment and hopefully to help my counterparts and opposite numbers share their expeirence, knowledge, and whatever is left of their brains after-hours to help deliver better results for constitutiants. Sounds like a big hairy audacious goal, but considering government agency websites are for the most part funded by public money, it behooves Government webmasters to deliver a sound, productive service which delivers the services, tools, information and systems citizens need to effictively interact with and use their services.

It’s also part catharsis and diary of the lessons I’ve learned in the process of doing this. I’m hoping that some of my learnings and insight will help out my counterparts and others in the sector, and maybe inspire them to try something new while pursuing the goal of enabling engaged, involved and active constituents and giving them the tools in the online space to participate and interact with what is traditionally a closed shop.