The 3 Biggest Challenges Facing the Government Sector (and How to Solve Them)

Turn technical debt into your advantage with the right IT solution for government — no rip-and-replace required.

MAY 6, 2022. 12 MIN READ

How can the government rebuild faith with its people when public trust is declining? One answer is surprisingly simple: Meet and deliver services to constituents where they are. And increasingly, that’s online.

The data supporting this strategy is clear: 87% of people say that a better digital government customer experience would increase their degree of trust. The federal government agrees, and it’s taking the lead with a mandate prioritizing the digital transformation of constituent services.


“Government must be held accountable for designing and delivering services with a focus on the actual experience of the people whom it is meant to serve.”

“Digital transformation” seems overwhelming. The good news for public sector agencies tasked with upleveling their digital offerings is that they can improve customer and employee journeys without completely overhauling existing systems. Here, we share three challenges the government sector faces and how adopting agile technology could change experiences for the better.

Unite teams around your constituents

Deliver excellent customer and employee experiences with modernized government IT.

Challenge #1: Modernize legacy government IT solutions

The U.S. government spends 80% of its IT budget on maintaining systems between eight and 51 years old — technology that is inflexible, costly, and sometimes unreliable. Ripping and replacing systems is an unappealing option given the enormous sums already invested. At the same time, legacy tools can’t adapt quickly to fast-emerging societal needs and are not optimized for mobile.

The U.S. government spends 80% of its IT budget on maintaining systems that are between eight and 51 years old.

So, how can public sector organizations modernize legacy systems and preserve the vast stores of crucial data locked inside? By adopting agile government IT solutions and technology that unify teams on a single platform. Today, they can do this with low-code solutions that can be configured to their needs in less time and at a lower cost than rebuilding traditional on-premises technology. That’s because organizations can reuse existing APIs, connectors, and templates. A shared view of their constituents enables collaboration between teams and empowers public servants to deliver intelligent, personalized experiences.

Importantly, this approach meets the public sector’s stringent (and unique) security requirements in many geographies globally. This includes multiple sources for control, so there can’t be a single point of failure. Further, security requirements can be embedded into all stages of the development lifecycle so customers can evolve with confidence.

Here’s how this all worked for the State of Indiana, where the Department of Child Services (DCS) needed a way to streamline collaboration between federal, state, local, and community partners. The state used Salesforce Customer 360 to build an intelligent government case management system to coordinate personalized care in real time. The technology integrates child support payments, health records, and case details, while also enabling employee needs such as scheduling. The state could have full confidence that this data was handled in the most secure ways possible, protecting the highly confidential information. This was critically important during the pandemic, when the health and safety of children and employees was the top priority.


“We had the platform in place that not only supported the mission-critical requirements but also enabled us to quickly pivot and address the reality brought on by COVID-19.”

Kevin Jones
CIO, State of Indiana Department of Child Services

Challenge #2: Improve the citizen experience

Citizens have quickly come to prefer the streamlined experiences they get from on-demand brands they trust. Those preferences don’t just disappear when they interact with a public sector organization. Three-quarters of government customers expect digital government services to perform at the standard of leading private sector institutions or better. Unfortunately, only 12% of customers say digital government services meet all their needs. And adding to the disconnect is that 70% of users reported experiencing problems during their most recent digital interaction with the government.

Three-quarters of government customers expect digital government services to perform at the standard of leading private sector institutions or better.

The Global Trust Imperative,” Boston Consulting Group and Salesforce, April 27, 2021
Fifty-one percent of Americans consider making agency websites and apps easier to use one of the most important improvements governments can make. To do this, governments must focus on delivering streamlined, connected services online and on mobile devices, while also ensuring those experiences are consistent with what happens in person and over the phone. It also means enabling guided self-service online — an option preferred by 82% of customers.

Only 12% of customers say digital government services meet all their needs.

The Global Trust Imperative,” Boston Consulting Group and Salesforce, April 27, 2021
Public sector organizations need a digital relationship management platform that connects digital, mobile, voice, and in-person interactions. This approach allows constituents to choose guided self-service and view their case data on their timeline — and on whatever device they choose. Public servants can deliver smart service quickly because they can share data in one centralized location.

“The cloud came ready for us to innovate, giving us the foundation to elevate our processes and workflows to bring residents the services they needed, in a way they wanted to receive them.”

Leslie Chaney
Chief Information Officer, New Hanover County
Here’s what omni-channel service looks like in New Hanover County, North Carolina, where the local government prioritized providing personalized, convenient experiences. The team kept constituents and public servants safe during the pandemic by offering more online services, like remote access, to their customers. In eight weeks, the team launched a virtual customer contact and case management solution with an intuitive customer portal. And because the technology is flexible, the team later was able to build out components of the system based on constituent feedback.

Challenge #3: Meet rising employee expectations

Governments are facing a labor shortage, lagging public servant job satisfaction scores, and pressure to replace retirement-eligible employees. But unlike the private sector — where all-digital, work-from-anywhere experiences are improving employee engagement — agency employees are still working in siloed teams and are reliant on legacy tools and processes. That lowers productivity and employee satisfaction.

To ensure that public sector employees have the tools they need to serve their organization’s mission, agencies must modernize IT. The following actions can help organizations evolve the government employee experience.

Enable secure collaboration with the right tools and a single constituent view

Great public servant experiences begin when you empower employees with the right collaboration tools and a single constituent view. A platform approach that gives employees access to modern technology eliminates the inefficiencies inherent in organizations that rely on disparate teams and data silos. Cloud-based solutions help streamline communication and centralize resources across teams, resulting in increased productivity and higher levels of engagement in a work-from-anywhere environment.

Streamline cumbersome processes and save time through automation

Automation ensures that workers don’t have to waste precious time performing simple tasks, like ordering a laptop. Bots that manage simple transactions free up employees’ time to focus on more complex cases. And by streamlining cumbersome processes like employee onboarding, agencies can build engagement and remain competitive in the war for talent — even in remote work environments.

Empower employees to make data-driven decisions

Streamlining processes also means facilitating faster decisions. With embedded analytics and custom reporting, employees can take intelligent next steps. This also keeps employees engaged during key moments along the journey, and enables leaders to identify inefficiencies, track trends, and recommend improvements.

Prepare public servants to work in a digital-first world

The demand for digital skills is expected to rise by more than 50% by 2025. The public sector urgently needs to close the skills gap in its workforce if it hopes to achieve true digital transformation. This isn’t just for the public these organizations serve. Addressing the skills gap will boost employee performance and satisfaction by empowering them to deliver exceptional experiences to constituents.

The health of the digital-first economy depends on everyone acquiring the skills to participate. You must ensure that your employees are prepared to keep up with changing demands by integrating upskilling and reskilling into your employee engagement plans.


Help constituents when they need government the most

Learn how the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration used Salesforce to approve 22,000 rental assistance applications.

Take the next step with Salesforce

Salesforce’s digital platform connects your legacy technologies so you can deliver smarter and more consistent experiences. We help thousands of government entities put millions of people at the center of everything they do. Trust is our core value, and that’s why we’re the world’s number one CRM.

Find out why thousands of governments around the world trust Salesforce to:

  • Improve public servant engagement and productivity
  • Streamline digital services for constituents and employees 
  • Build trust with stakeholders throughout the community

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