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Business Portal Retrospective


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We built the Business Portal to be a new kind of government website, and a sample of future improvements to how San Francisco interacts with its citizens. It is also the first step in creating a comprehensive solution. In that vein, I created this retrospective to share our lessons learned and inspire other municipalities to take a similar approach to government services. The Retrospective was created in Powerpoint to make it easy to update for non-designers. I then used the Box View API to put the document online and a combination of Drupal and HTML to add it to the Business Portal website.

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Business Portal Retrospective

  1. 1. April 2015 San Francisco Business Portal Retrospective
  2. 2. Supporters Press & Awards What’s Next Lessons Learned Outcomes Building the Portal Design Principles Findings User Research Approach (overview)
  3. 3. “ The SF Business Portal came about in response to a distinct need from San Francisco citizens, and a commitment from Mayor Ed Lee to make government more responsive and effective. For years, prospective business owners navigated the complex permitting process by searching through various websites and making in-person visits to multiple City departments, in order to get their business off the ground. Recognizing the need to remove barriers for small business owners, we chose to take a citizen-centric approach to providing government services. To begin, we conducted extensive UX/UI research, working directly with City staff and local business owners to create our design principles: simplicity, accessibility, and trust. With these principles in mind, the Business Portal Team collaborated with 18 departments and a local design firm to build a comprehensive website addressing the process of starting, managing, and growing a business in San Francisco. We built the Business Portal to be a new kind of government website, and a sample of future improvements to how San Francisco interacts with its citizens. It is also the first step in creating a comprehensive solution. We hope this retrospective shares our lessons learned and inspires other municipalities to take a similar approach to government services. Our sincerest thanks, The San Francisco Business Portal Team The San Francisco Business Portal puts our small businesses first by bringing together all the information a small business owner needs to start, stay, and grow in San Francisco. – Mayor Ed Lee Approach
  4. 4. Office of Small Business surveys and reports Non-governmental analogous experiences Other U.S. city and state business portals Current city, state, and federal business portals and online resources San Francisco small business owners INDIVIDUAL 90 MINUTE INTERVIEWS San Francisco Small Business Leaders 90 MINUTE GROUP INTERVIEW Internal stakeholders from 9 departments 3 HOUR WORKSHOP Key Office of Small Business Counselors 4-6 HOURS We began with qualitative research focused on both internal users (City staff who interact with business owners), and external users (San Francisco business owners at every stage of the lifecycle of a business). Our findings revealed barriers to entrepreneurship – inaccurate information, process inefficiencies, unequal access to resources – and yielded a better overview of the customer journey, as well as a number of key design principles to guide the project. User Research
  5. 5. (customer journey)Findings
  6. 6. *Design Principles developed by Tomorrow Partners. Increase trust. Create visibility into where in the process or on whose desk paperwork has landed and when it will be processed. Be accountable. Admit when mistakes are made, and don't penalize business owners unnecessarily. 6 Dole out delight. Give users/customers one continuous experience, even in the face of unanticipated events and issues. Anticipate needs and let people know what they should be aware of before it happens. Eliminate redundancies and streamline processes. Look for opportunities to dematerialize, make efficient, make delightful. 5Treat constituents as customers. Treat customers like people, not numbers. Demonstrate that users/customers needs are important by providing responses that are human, not bureaucratic. Help users/customers feel like their businesses are important to San Francisco. 4 Make it accessible. Provide clear instructions. Use simple language that is easy to understand, regardless of one's motivation, educational background, linguistic background or level of business expertise. Design uncluttered experience, interface, forms, and signage. Connect users/customers to resources and people at many points during the journey. Ensure usability across multiple devices. 3 Curate content. Make the content relevant to a variety of business types or industries. Provide context for customers or users based on where they are in the process. Give options to help make the right choices. 2 Do the right thing. Set clear expectations and make the process clear. Find opportunities to show that the City cares about the businesses, and their impact on others (employees, community). 1 Design Principles
  7. 7. Building the Portal
  8. 8. español 18 DelightDelight& Accuracy Accuracy Continually engaged with business owners and city staff to ensure: TabletTablet& DesktopDesktop& PhonePhone Created a responsive site design that can be used on: 中文 Chinese&Spanish Wrote Portal content in simple language that reads well in English and translates easily to 8+ languages, with emphasis on: permits 400+ 400+&departments18Collected & consolidated information from: Building the Portal
  9. 9. 311 Small Business- Related Cases solved 159 Office of Small Business Cases Generated 26 Tablet Users 4% Mobile Users 10% Other Bay Area Users 11% San Francisco Users 42% Users per month 2.8K Page Views per Month 10K The Portal sees more than 10x as many users on a daily basis as the City’s previous online permitting information option. Feedback from user testing revealed the Portal to be comprehensive, easy to navigate, inspiring, and “needed in every city.” Responses through our Give Feedback feature and mentions on social media have highlighted the Portal for “defying typical govtech”, being “a pleasure to explore”, making it “easier to do business in San Francisco”, and even, in the words of one SF business owner: “doing us a solid.” The Portal generates about 10,000 page views per month and growing. It has generated 26 cases for Office of Small Business counselors and directed dozens of people to the City’s Business Registration. (Business registration is the most commonly accessed page and most commonly searched term related to the Portal). It has helped 311 staff better answer business related questions. Critically, analytics and feedback from the site now inform decisions related to our San Francisco business community, in addition to helping us improve the Portal’s digital offerings. User feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and usage has exceeded all previous services. Outcomes
  10. 10. Information is Power From our research, we discovered that a lack of clear, consistent, accessible information was the biggest barrier to success for business owners. Without an overview or understanding of the process, aspiring business owners felt lost and frustrated. We chose to focus on first creating an information portal – doing the research to construct a clear roadmap with better instructions – before addressing technological improvements (ie. a fully-online permitting experience). Takeaway: Incremental improvements seem small but provide a lot of value, and content can be just as important as functionality. Mayoral Leadership Mayor Lee’s commitment to supporting small businesses was the driving force behind the Portal. His early and active leadership enabled the project team to engage departments throughout our City government and made completion a priority. Takeaway: Get leadership on board. Talk to your Team We held frequent, informal, and often impromptu conversations for problem-solving. Discussions – even ones involving differing opinions – were respectful and productive. Ideas were openly shared and validated. Takeaway: Talk to your team. Talk to them often. Be honest and respectful. Collaborate Between Departments We brought all permitting departments on board early with a kick-off meeting, then maintained ongoing communication to develop content throughout the project. Takeaway: Get buy-in, directly or indirectly, by involving stakeholders and subject matter experts early and often. Work with Different Kinds of People Our team was professionally diverse, lending unique skill-sets, expertise, and perspectives to the project. Takeaway: Identify which skills are most important to achieve key success criteria and allocate staff accordingly. We’ve compiled a few of the key lessons we discovered while building the Business Portal. We share them in the hopes that other cities may learn from our successes and mistakes. Lessons Learned
  11. 11. Make it Simple All content in the portal is crafted to be simple and accessible. We deliberately avoided legalese and traditional government lingo, instead favoring clear, concise language. We also avoided idiomatic expressions in order to craft content that translated easily. The UK’s Government Digital Service Content style guide urges civic technologist to “do the hard work to make it simple” and helped us develop and adhere to these principles. Takeaway: Communicate as clearly and simply as possible. Write like a person, not a legal team. Manage your Content The amount of content to be collected and curated far exceeded our initial estimates. Only after the sitemap (including subpages) was complete, were we able to gauge the amount of work required to create/assemble all content. Takeaway: Continually assess (and re-assess) content needs over the course the project. Procure Mindfully A local design firm with extensive human- centered design experience won the bid to do the Business Portal research, design, and development. Takeaway: Include qualitative and quantitative measures in your RFP in order to get the best fit. Seek out comparable city projects to learn about their approach to budgeting and procurement. Lessons Learned
  12. 12. Recognizing that technology is only part of the puzzle, we are now implementing process improvements alongside new digital offerings. We have begun examining and streamlining the City’s internal processes for business permits and licenses - using the same principles that drive the Business Portal: simplicity, accessibility, and trust. We are making the process simpler by eliminating unnecessary steps and paperwork. We are making it more accessible by offering online applications, eliminating redundant work for City staff, and freeing up time for all involved to get back to business. Finally, we are increasing trust by standardizing a high level of customer service across permitting departments. Through these improvements, we aim to eliminate inefficiencies and leverage technology for cost-savings, while allowing the City to adapt and improve services based on real-time data. More importantly, citizens will be better able to use and benefit from City services, and less likely to experience delays or fall through the cracks. So, what’s next? We scale our success with the Business Portal, looking at other government services and finding ways that technology and design can make them better. We focus on bringing government to the people by creating exemplary online and offline services. The possibilities are endless. Our ultimate goal is to give San Franciscans a single, continuous experience across City departments, thereby making our local government more responsive to its citizens. What’s Next?
  13. 13. Press + Awards Data-Smart City Solutions Breaking Barriers to Doing Business Award CA Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development
  14. 14. ^ No goods or services were provided in exchange for being interviewed or featured in the Portal. *Tomorrow Partners was the design firm chosen to partner with the City’s internal team in building the San Francisco Business Portal. Cal Insurance & Associates Casa Sanchez Dodo Case Everest Waterproofing & Restoration Extranomical Fourbarrel Headland Films Hearth Coffee Mozzeria R Bar Rickshaw Bagworks Roots San Franpsycho Square Urban Bazaar Wise Sons Jewish Deli Supporters^ Arts Commission Board of Supervisors Committee on Information Technology Department of Building Inspection Department of Public Health Department of Public Works Department of the Environment Entertainment Commission Fire Department Mayor’s Office of Disability Office of Contract Administration Office of the Assessor-Recorder Office of the County Clerk Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector Planning Department Police Department Public Utilities Commission Small Business Commission Tomorrow Partners* Partners Sponsoring Departments Supporters
  15. 15. Angel Quicksey Project Manager Jason Hemmerle Senior Project Manager Jane Gong Program Director Our sincerest thanks,