G-Cloud and the need for tech marketing in government

SUMMARY:

G-Cloud’s profile is on the rise, but there’s lots of work still to do as Forrester Research urges a new look at public sector marketing.

stock-footage-letter-g-on-fireFollowing Derek’s write up of this week’s EuroCloud meeting in London on the future of the G-Cloud initiative, I came across a rather timely posting from Forrester Research on the need for CIOs and CMOs to unite in government.

The reason this caught my eye is because one of the criticisms most commonly levelled at the G-Cloud programme of late – not least by me! – has been what I perceive to be a lower profile for the initiative. That’s why we went ahead with our special 2 part report earlier this year in which we expressed our concern about the G-Cloud’s then state.

In her posting, Forrester’s Jennifer Belissent makes the point that when we think of the marketing function, it’s in the context of the private sector where companies need to identify target markets and opportunities. But in government, she observes:

Public-sector organizations don’t typically have the luxury of choosing their target market or their products and services. Or at least that’s what most organizations think. But even if that is the case, it doesn’t mean that these organizations shouldn’t get to know their “customers” and understand how best to meet their needs. While the service might be prescribed by legislation or regulation, public organizations can influence the customer experience, and the rising focus on citizen engagement mandates they do so.

Most government organizations have public affairs or communications departments, but these groups are focused on outbound information flows. Governments need to embrace the inbound function of marketing: understanding the “market,” gathering requirements for products and services, beta testing prototypes with focus groups, analyzing feedback to inform product and services upgrades. None of these concepts are foreign to most public organizations. Whether the role is labeled “marketing” or “customer experience” or something else, public agencies must embrace a marketing function.

Belissent goes on to list the reasons there needs to be greater alliances forged between the tech gurus and the marketing wizards:

The CIO-CMO partnership enables government organizations to:

Better understand the organization’s “customers.” How do constituents use public services? How often? Via which channels? Would they use web or mobile services? What are their preferences and profiles.

Design programs to improve the customer experience. Knowing your customers’ personas and preferences helps you tailor programs for a better experience. Think online to relieve pressures on in-person services. Experienced marketing leaders bring new ideas for creative engagement and improved experience.

Drive outreach to continuously engage customers and solicit feedback. Everyone has an opinion on public services, whether it’s the lines at the department of motor vehicles or overcrowding on rush-hour buses. The only way to address these issues is to know what they are. Marketing leaders have experience in asking the right questions.

Effectively collaborate on and realize complex new projects. An effective CMO and CIO partnership can drive successful citizen engagement. Working together, the roles of marketing and tech management can provide a united front combining customer experience with IT execution.

My take

Now, the G-Cloud programme has upped its game without doubt. I can see more and more public appearances by senior G-Cloud team members at various regional events around the UK, emphasised by a brief Twitter exchange with Tony Singleton, Head of G-Cloud, last night following his appearance at a G-Cloud seminar in my home town of Brighton.

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Tony’s referencing a national engagement programme with tech industry group TechUK which are aimed at both the buy and the sell side’s specifics needs in relation to the G-Cloud. (More info here if you’re interested.)

For our part, diginomica will be partnering with Think Events for a series of public sector cloud events (see below) over the next 6 months at which members of the Government Digital Service – custodians of the G-Cloud – will be keynoting. All of this is a very welcome development and a healthy upturn on the past 12 months.

But the fact remains that there’s still a lot of work that needs doing. Just this week, out came another study from services firm Six Degrees Group, that found that 66% of UK civil servants claim to have no knowledge of the G-Cloud. Of course, this can be pitched another way, which G-Cloud supporters have done in recent days:

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But at this stage of G-Cloud’s life, even if awareness is heading in the right direction, that still leaves a lot of evangelism that needs to be heard in a lot of places.

One thing that emerged from the EuroCloud meeting was the need for more and more best practice exemplars of organizations and authorities that have used the G-Cloud framework effectively.

The supply side needs to play its part here, although I am all too conscious of the frustrations of trying to get public sector bodies to sign off on use case studies, but I can only urge them to keep plugging away. It is worth it!

Perhaps one thing that GDS might usefully do would be to redirect more of its comms and marketing efforts into sourcing and publicising such exemplars?

I can certainly promise that diginomica for one would be only too keen to promote such content to our audience and beyond.

 

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    Comments are closed.

    1. cantwaitogo says:

      KateBaldwin18 6degreesgroup which mean 33% do – how great is that?

    2. Diginomica Stuart says:

      It is indeed, Chris, it is indeed – as I say, it’s clear that awareness is growing. But the negative survey results continue to appear and there’s a long way to go, especially in local government. As I say in the piece, we need to find ways to accelerate the rising awareness levels. That was one of the main themes that came out of the EuroCloud meeting – which was scarcely a hostile audience.

    3. Kahootz says:

      Stuart, 

      we would agree with you about the limited role of the communications officer to ‘getting the message out’. Although some are now moving into the ‘twittersphere’ their online activities have very little to do with qualitative and quantitative feedback mechanisms as part of policy development or service transformation.

      On your other point, we have lots of cases of G-Cloud clients. There is still a resistance however for departments and authorities to provide qualitative comment about the service they have chosen as it might seem like an endorsement. This is of course culturally at odds with the Amazon and Ebay approach of rating suppliers and products which is on the CloudStore development wishlist.