In the media

Users are the most important part of authorities' digitisation process

By Oskar Sevefjord


24 June 2021

Read the article in Swedish

Sweden's digital public services do not meet the needs of their users. More authorities should increase their focus on the customer journey, write PA's Marie Amann and Oskar Sevefjord.

In recent years, Sweden has come out well in international surveys on the digitisation of society.  Among other things, Sweden performs very well in terms of the proportion of active Internet users and households with fixed and fast broadband. But when it comes to digitisation of the public sector and the ability to develop digital services based on the user's needs, its performance looks worse.

Unfortunately, our experience is that Swedish authorities place too much focus on internal efficiency. Reference groups with users of the services are also brought in too late in the digitisation process.

The Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth recently completed a government assignment looking at simpler government contacts. The assignment was based on the business policy goals of shortening processing times, increasing customer satisfaction and the degree of collaboration and included 19 authorities of varying sizes. The conclusions found, among other things, that customer satisfaction decreased, as assessed by the companies, despite the fact that processing times were shortened and dialogue increased.

Increased satisfaction
But some authorities have managed to increase their customer satisfaction levels. The Swedish Board of Agriculture has succeeded in reducing its processing times and at the same time increased its customer satisfaction and interoperability. More efficient working methods and a more user-friendly methodology in digital service design are cited  as success factors in the ongoing digitisation work. Taking both an external and internal perspective has also been a success factor in the ongoing dialogue with the Swedish Board of Agriculture's customers who are entrepreneurs.

The Swedish Financial Management Authority (ESV) has previously highlighted good examples of demand-driven development, including the Swedish Tax Agency, the Swedish Social Insurance Agency and the Swedish Migration Board. ESV points out that the Swedish Tax Agency has succeeded in developing its operations based on the needs of its target groups. This is confirmed by the reaction of citizens as the Swedish Tax Agency regularly tops the trust rankings for Swedish authorities. These successes are based both on changes to the organization and on service development, with the e-declaration a concrete example. In addition, the Swedish Tax Agency has also succeeded in communicating the benefits of its services effectively.

User perspective
What is needed for success is a focus on including the user perspective from the beginning and then continuously involving them. The challenge is not about doing this at the project level but at the organisational level. An individual team can certainly succeed with some form of user-driven development for the individual service. But that is more about the drive and passion of individuals than about creating an organizational movement based on awareness of the issue.

User-driven service design means broadening development teams by adding new skills. Those who work with, for example, service design may have varying backgrounds such as informatics, cognitive ergonomics and interactive design. Using these competencies, the team's ability to understand users' behaviour increases through gaining insights from data and managing creative problem solving, interactive design, programming, business development and communication.

The methodology around demand-driven development is crucial for success in the development of good digital services when the user's overall experience and customer journey are central components. This is something that the Swedish Social Insurance Agency, for example, highlights in its work around “Expecting and having children” where one of their most important insights gained from their fictional people stories was that the target group's customer journey started long before parenthood began.

Active choices
Being user-driven is about active choices where vision and strategy need to be translated to the tactical and operational level. Our assessment is that user-driven development in our authorities would lead to a more meaningful digitisation for both society and citizens.

Marie Amann is a change management expert and Oskar Sevefjord is an organisation and leadership expert at PA Consulting

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