App vs. Abacus – or Something in Between?

As we discovered during this month’s Iowa Democratic caucus, the “move fast and break things” era of disruptive innovation persists. The app-based reporting system responsible for reporting the caucus results failed due to bad code, user-unfriendliness, and a rushed development process — all things that were easily preventable.

The fact is, there isn’t always an app for that. Especially when the app in question doesn’t undergo rigorous cybersecurity checks and user testing, or when it’s a solution in search of a problem to solve.

Even when there is a problem to solve, we’ve learned that sometimes the best solutions are low-tech (or even “no-tech”) fixes. “Stubborn problems” can potentially reveal themselves as “simple problems.” In other words, don’t build an app when you can use a pad and pencil or send a SMS instead.

We’ve all seen this pattern in govtech before, because while technology can be a great tool it requires a broader view to succeed. So we put together a thorough guide for leaders looking to improve customer service through thoughtful planning and low-tech solutions. Read it here.

At March’s Code for America Summit in Washington, D.C., Alluma’s Sonal Ambegaokar, Executive Director, Policy Innovation, will be a panelist for the breakout session, “Decoding Common Challenges and Low-Tech Fixes for Better Customer Service,” on Thursday, March 12 at 2:30pm. Joining Sonal will be Jennifer Wagner, Senior Policy Analyst for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and Harrison Neuert, a Senior Associate at ideas42 who specializes in applying behavioral science to policy issues.

The session digs deeper into the challenges agencies face when interacting with and supporting clients — such as low application-completion and renewal rates, high call-center volume, and more — and will map to solutions, such as utilizing text messaging as a means to improve communications between clients and assisters.

Further reading:

Improving Customer Service in Health and Human Services Through Technology

Leveraging Text Messaging to Improve Communications in Safety Net Programs [Center on Budget & Policy Priorities]

An ‘Off-the-Shelf, Skeleton Project’: Experts Analyze the App That Broke Iowa [Motherboard]

Gov Tech Lessons Learned from Iowa's Caucus App Debacle [Government Technology]

The Iowa Caucuses App Had Another Problem: It Could Have Been Hacked [ProPublica]

The Important Lessons Every Designer Should Learn from the Iowa Caucuses [InVision]