The Center for Digital Government’s 2017 Government to Business experience winners were mostly all cities, including Los Angeles and Long Beach who I’ve previously analysed. But what about fellow winner from the state of Indiana, INBiz?

This week they got a bit of media attention with over 250,000 businesses now registered and conducting business with them online with over 400,000 transactions.  For a state population of six million that piqued my interest and encouraged me to dig deeper so you can learn more about what makes an award winning One-Stop shop.

Expectations of what “One-Stop” means

When you hear a government delivers a “One-Stop” portal, or “One-Stop” shop for business, what visual picture does your mind paint?

Stop and think about it for a moment.

Ready again? Great.

If you’re like most people it means you can do everything you need to do for a business in a single location.

But being in government I’m sure you’re pragmatic enough - and if you’ve been in government long enough - you’ll know bringing all government services into a single location doesn’t happen overnight.

In that sense a “One-Stop” experience may start with bringing together services from a handful of agencies and then building on that. That includes expanding deeper into those agencies’ services but also engaging with new agencies, building on the success and momentum achieved with the first group of agencies. By building on this in phase after phase, the overall customer offering grows, better delivering against the customer proposition.

That’s both a good use of taxpayers’ funds and a well executed risk mitigation strategy.

If your plan delivers an initial offering that improves the customer experience and gains internally credibility inside government, continue expansion plans. If however the execution does not resonate with customers or if due to lack of leadership, governance or good-old fashioned common sense, doesn’t get traction within government, it should be wrapped up. Remember the axiom: fail fast.

But the issue at play here is when will your government’s offering be sufficiently mature that customers using the portal describe it as a “One-Stop” experience; be that a “One-Stop” shop, source or portal.

There’s often a tipping point when this is achieved, however it varies depending on your:

  • Level and complexity of government (municipal, state or national)
  • Population size
  • Depth and breadth of the offering and
  • Customers’ expectations

The trouble only arises when these factors are ignored.

When marketing gets in the way of a good thing

The one and only problem with Indiana’s INBiz portal is it looks like a marketing person has quickly called it a “One-Stop” source way too early. The problem then compounds further when everyone - especially at the senior levels of a government agency - latch onto the term.

Don’t get me wrong. It is my professional opinion that Indiana’s INBiz portal is a great resource but it’s focus is firmly focused on seamless delivery of transactional services for business. It does this very well. But the question is, is that enough to when it comes to customers’ expectations?

I’d say not. And the reason is a lack of boundaries.

How boundaries set expectations

I recently wrote articles about Singapore and Switzerland delivering very successful niche government to business portals for grants and business registration respectively. What made them successful was two things:

  1. They narrowed down their focus to a discrete speciality and did that well
  2. They promoted their offering in that context as a One-Stop Shop eg a One-Stop Shop for business grants, or a One-Stop Shop for business registration.

INBiz doesn’t set these boundaries.

It delivers business registration very similar in nature to Switzerland’s EasyGov, but promotes itself more broadly as Indiana’s One-Stop Source for business. This type of generalisation doesn’t help when INBiz is purely transactional in nature.

Peer perception is an important indicator for how well INBiz is being received as Indiana’s One-Stop Source to Business.  Yes, it has made an impact broadening its customer proposition beyond the Department of State’s business services to also include Department of Revenue, Department of Workforce Development and Professional Licensing Agency transactions. And they’re adding more transactions in spring 2018 from the Office of the Attorney-General. But there are so many more department and agency services out there.

Indiana is also blessed to have scored second place in the Center for Digital Government’s state portal award for customer experience with its IN.gov portal. But does the state portal link to INBiz?

No.

It creates its own “Business” navigation tab that lists a total of eighteen Indiana Government sites for business.

And INBiz doesn’t even appear on the list!

These agency sites are still content rich and many still have their own transactional services. More confusing for the business owners though is:

  • There are two separate start-up guides for business, one from IN.gov and another from the Secretary of State
  • Plus links to the Small Business Development Center and
  • Right in the middle of IN.gov there’s an animated search function that promotes starting a business.

So much for INBiz being the One-Stop Source! I can’t imagine how confusing that experience would be for businesses in Indiana.  

Set a vision and work towards it. Don’t pretend it exists early on when it doesn’t

That’s the takeaway for your government organization.

By all means set a clear objective and communicate that to key stakeholders. Then work hard and achieve it. When you have alignment with your vision, offering and customer expectations (informed by boundaries) then promote it like crazy.

And what can INBiz do?

Repositioning its message is a must. Unless they manage in 2018 to bring on board a majority of transactional business services and supporting content.

But to do that in a calendar year and maintain quality and meet customer expectation would require an inordinate combination of resources, dollars and agency goodwill.

So instead just reposition, stick to the vision and work hard to deliver against it over time.