Product Thinking
Episode 114: Designing for Impact: How User Research Can Transform Government Services with Dana Chisnell
April 12, 2023
Have you ever wondered what it's like to work in product management and UX design in the government? Dana Chisnell, the Acting Executive Director for Customer Experience at Homeland Security, tells Melissa Perri what it’s like in this episode of Product Thinking. Dana shares her journey from being an independent consultant to ultimately joining Homeland Security. She describes the challenges of implementing human-centered design in a massive government organization, and the importance of proactive user research to inform service design. Listen in to learn how Dana and her team are working to improve customer experiences for the public in their interactions with DHS agencies, from TSA to FEMA. Dana Chisnell is the Acting Executive Director for Customer Experience at Homeland Security. She has over two decades of experience in UX design and research, and has worked with both private companies and government agencies. Dana is the co-founder of the Center for Civic Design, a nonprofit organization that works to improve the voting experience for all citizens. She also served on the board of the Usability Professionals' Association and is a frequent speaker at conferences on user experience design, research, and civic technology. You’ll hear Melissa and Dana talk about: Proactive user research is essential to inform service design in the government context, and to improve customer experiences for the public. Implementing human-centered design in a massive government organization like DHS requires a shift in mindset from focusing on reactive customer service to proactively understanding the needs of customers and reaching the most vulnerable. Product management and user experience design are relatively new concepts to the federal government, and there is a need to expand the pool of practitioners and build design and research ops. DHS has committed to improving customer experiences across its agencies, including FEMA, TSA, USCIS, and CBP. Dana’s team at Homeland Security is working on building and scaling design and research ops, and expanding the pool of practitioners, while also supporting the commitments made by DHS agencies under President Biden's executive order. Different government agencies have varying levels of CX and UX maturity. The government is focused on impact and improving people's lives rather than maximizing revenue, which changes the incentives for product decisions. The process of product management and user experience design is similar in the private and public sectors, but outcomes are measured differently in the government. The political climate in the Executive Office and Congress can affect the potential outcomes for the public. The challenge in government is getting stakeholders to think about outcomes rather than outputs. Demonstrating the impact that a program will have on people helps get stakeholders to shift their mindset towards outcomes. Problem focus is still applicable in government product management, just like in the private sector. When working for the government, it's important to take into account the whole population, not just a perfect persona that a private company may prioritize. Dana advises starting by working with the most vulnerable people first, such as those who have been historically marginalized, to understand their situation before moving on to other groups of personas. The power dynamic when doing user research with vulnerable people is sensitive, and it's important to not make people more vulnerable and afraid by doing the research and design work. Third parties such as vendors or nonprofits may be trained to do the work instead. Everyone on a team should do research, regardless of their role, to gain exposure to users and customers. The government measures user experience by the level of burden experienced when filling out a form. There are incentives for lowering that burden, and basic usability testing with the intended audience can help achieve this. Resources: Dana Chisnell on Website | LinkedIn | Twitter CX at Homeland Security
Have you ever wondered what it's like to work in product management and UX design in the government? Dana Chisnell, the Acting Executive Director for Customer Experience at Homeland Security, tells Melissa Perri what it’s like in this episode of Product Thinking. Dana shares her journey from being an independent consultant to ultimately joining Homeland Security. She describes the challenges of implementing human-centered design in a massive government organization, and the importance of proactive user research to inform service design. Listen in to learn how Dana and her team are working to improve customer experiences for the public in their interactions with DHS agencies, from TSA to FEMA.

Dana Chisnell is the Acting Executive Director for Customer Experience at Homeland Security. She has over two decades of experience in UX design and research, and has worked with both private companies and government agencies. Dana is the co-founder of the Center for Civic Design, a nonprofit organization that works to improve the voting experience for all citizens. She also served on the board of the Usability Professionals' Association and is a frequent speaker at conferences on user experience design, research, and civic technology.

You’ll hear Melissa and Dana talk about:

Resources:
Dana Chisnell on Website | LinkedIn | Twitter 
CX at Homeland Security



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