Being Innovative About Innovation
Government contractors and our government agency clients find ourselves in a circular situation: Our economy is currently challenged and government agencies are facing across the board budget cuts. Because of the budget cuts, government agencies are asking for low cost, innovative solutions. Innovation costs money. What are we to do?
Innovation is the key to developing better, cheaper, faster solutions that result in financial, systemic, and repeatable improvements for our clients. Outstanding delivery of such innovation is what we pride ourselves on. In the current economy, do we need to be innovative about innovation to achieve desired results within budget constraints?
One way to do this is to look at client satisfaction. Client satisfaction is at the heart of innovation. In the government contracting market, the government agency is “the client” and the obvious focus of client satisfaction. But agency clients - the end user, consumer, or citizen (“consumer”) —are also our clients. Purposefully focusing on the consumer impacts how we innovate and the solutions that result.
Establishing a clear definition of the consumer is the first step. Think of service centers such as the DMV, USCIS Application Support Centers (for processing immigration matters), or airport checkpoints. The employees and the users are consumers. The satisfaction of both groups is equally important, but not necessarily aligned (with each other or sometimes with the agencies’ objectives).
Continue the innovation process by playing 20 questions (how, so what, why, why not) related to the consumer. For example:
How is the current solution/service/product working for the consumer?
What are the positives and negatives of the current solution?
How can the negatives be fixed?
At what cost?
The process of asking and reviewing the questions paves the way for innovative solutions. Now play 20 questions related to the agency client to see where the similarities and differences lie. A small shift in focus then can lead to greater innovation. This approach helps us deliver innovative solutions and solve problems for our clients – federal government and citizenry alike.