Tn.gov has been recognized by Juggle as one of the top state government sites on the web. Below you'll find an interview with Craig Shinn, General Manager of NICUSA, Tennessee.
- Tn.gov is a top-notch web portal; what has been your role in its development?
In 2000, and again in 2005, through a competitive bid process, the State of Tennessee entered into a partnership with NIC, Inc. to develop and promote the TN.gov portal. After a decade of collaboration, the partnership remains strong, innovative and committed to providing value-added online services for citizens, businesses and government entities.
- Can you provide some of the history of Tennessee's web portal?
Tennessee’s focus on leveraging the Internet ramped up in 2000 with the launch of the Driver License Renewal Service and hundreds of online services have followed. The TN.gov team has worked with numerous agencies and departments and annual transactions have grown from under 10,000 in 2000 to approximately 16,000,000 in 2009.
- What are the overarching objectives of Tennessee's current e-government initiatives?
Tough financial conditions have forced government agencies to cut budgets and to do more with less. Strategic initiatives and plans created in the past couple of years have really focused on leveraging technology to increase efficiencies and to reduce costs. Successful technology and service implementation can reduce or eliminate paper-based processes that are expensive and time-consuming, resulting in significant cost avoidance. Earlier this year NIC worked with an agency to launch a service that eliminated the need to mail over 200,000 letters each month, saving the agency over $1.2 million annually.
- From a marketing standpoint, what are some of the strategies that you have utilized to draw attention to the information and services provided by Tn.gov, both on- and off-line?
An effective first step in generating awareness of a new service, such as a license renewal, is the inclusion of a promotional insert in renewal notices. Informational blurbs and articles in industry and association newsletters and websites are also an effective way to generate attention.
Certain services are suited for more proactive adoption drivers such as a change in process. Eliminating the mailing of forms to be filed and replacing them with a postcard directing users to online resources is highly effective in boosting adoption rates. Users can be given the option to print and mail a PDF but the vast majority chose to utilize the online service once they reach the site. Tennessee’s Department of Commerce and Insurance was able to reach 87% online adoption in less than two years of initial service launch for professional license boards that implemented postcard renewal notices. The agency sent out renewal forms with promotional inserts for the first year and switched to postcards during the second year and adoption rates went from under 35% percent to 87%.
- How has citizen feedback influenced the development of Tennessee's e-government services?
Citizen feedback has helped shape and form TN.gov since day one. It is critical to know what people are looking for and gauge how well the portal is meeting their needs. Over the years, the TN.gov team has used online and offline surveys and the latest in tracking software to gather and analyze user data to not only optimize site layout and architecture but prioritize service offerings. When surveys showed that a mobile version of the Tennessee Legislature’s website was in high demand the project received priority and necessary resources were allocated.
- What is the most-used feature or service on the site?
Search applications such as the Felony Offender Lookup, Child Support Payment Summary and the Unclaimed Property Search are used over a million times each year. We also have transactional applications such as the Sales Tax Filing service, which process over a half a million transactions each year.
- Tn.gov’s online chat service would seem to be a very useful feature for a state government website. How many people are utilizing the service, and who manages it (i.e. a third-party)?
Online chat is a very useful service, which was integrated into the TN.gov site several years ago. The TN.gov team has used the feedback obtained from online chat sessions to improve the help and FAQ sections of the online applications, thus reducing the need for users to look for assistance from a live body. These days, online chat is used mostly to guide users to the appropriate agency that can assist with a service or request that cannot yet be completed online.
- In what ways has social media (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, etc.) allowed you connect more directly and personally with the citizens of Tennessee?
Agencies have really started embracing social media and Web 2.0 and everyone benefits. The new social media tools augment accessibility, increase efficiencies and communication and foster the growth of a substantial new user base. The value of these platforms was tremendous in the May 2010 Tennessee floods. Agencies such as Tennessee Emergency Management were able to get out communications and news when it was critical and in high demand.
- Where do you see e-government heading in the next 2-3 years? Are there any exciting new features or services currently in the works for Tennessee's web portal?
Mobile services are an area that will probably be a focus for the next couple of years. User feedback and insight show a growing demand and the usage of currently available mobile services continues to increase. Location aware and GeoIP services are also an exciting and growing area.
- What else that you would like to tell us about Tn.gov?
TN.gov focuses on delivering a customized and dynamic user experience for every visit. The portal uses GeoIP and dynamic click-path analysis to deliver customized and personalized information, news and service links. Tennessee’s focus on providing a positive user experience has driven the portal’s growth and is a key reason the portal processes over 16 million transactions and $3 billion every year.