Bridge the gap between policy and implementation: Impactful solutions and strategies for success from’s spring 2024 summit

Jul 8, 2024

On March 13, 2024, over 1,000 people gathered for’s online community summit to discuss delivering a government digital-first public experience. The summit featured five main sessions covering:

  • Strategies for building a successful digital team
  • Impactful solutions using research and technical discovery
  • Crafting quality content and managing legacy information online
  • Managing agile procurements and acquisitions
  • How to determine a successful path forward, post-launch

Each session connected guidance from two recently released memos, M-23-22, Delivering a Digital-First Public Experience and M-24-08, Strengthening Digital Accessibility and the Management of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Federal Chief Information Officer (CIO) Clare Martorana kicked off the event with her keynote speech, noting to the audience:

You are the people we need to actually commit this government to delivering a digital-first public experience. … during the many discussions, you will be reminded of just how big this opportunity is, improving websites and digital services across the federal government impacts millions of people.—Federal Chief Information Officer, Clare Martorana
Clare Martorana has short white hair, and is wearing shades of blue. She is wearing light-colored glasses, smiling, and an American flag is seen behind her right shoulder.

Mortorana highlighted the themes of OMB’s policy guidance in the memos, which drives change across seven key pillars of digital experience:

  1. Analytics: Gain insight into user behavior and optimize digital experiences
  2. Accessibility: Ensure websites and digital services are accessible to all individuals
  3. Brand: Establish greater trust in interactions with the government
  4. Content: Ensure the public gets the answers they need
  5. Design: Make it easier to navigate government websites
  6. Search: Make it easier to find information about government services
  7. Digitization: Make it easier to access services and complete tasks online

“Each step forward is a huge win for the American public,” Mortorana summarized, “we are all changing the way the public interacts with and thinks about government. … you are the change agent we need.”

Creating and sustaining a digital team

The speakers agreed that “small and scrappy” teams can consistently implement big changes by embracing cross-functionality, focusing on a strong mission, and taking advantage of existing intergovernmental resources and communities. During this session, the speakers recommended hiring strategies that solicit employees with diverse skill sets, and highlighted the necessity of creating a goal-driven atmosphere that allows for innovation, risk-taking, and an open culture of feedback.

Impactful solutions gained through user research and technical discovery

The second session took the next step in digital content creation by emphasizing impactful solutions gained through user research and technical discovery. User research tests a team’s assumptions by allowing them to witness and understand real user behaviors. Technical discovery involves integrating developers and designers throughout the process, allowing them to see how their tools and solutions work. As developers and designers watch users interacting with the solution, they can make suggestions, tweak designs, and apply innovative solutions.

Crafting quality content

In the third session, speakers discussed keeping content relevant. For example, when content should be published, updated, and removed; how and by whom should content be maintained; and how tone and platform relate. The group delved into topics such as publishing standards, accessibility, the liability of unmanaged content, governance strategies, leveraging career federal employees, and the importance of metrics and content auditing.

In one memorable insight, Sally Harris, the Managing Director of the Digital Media and Creative Services at the Department of Education, noted that digital content is like a puppy; there are multiple life stages, each demanding unique attention and activities. The work doesn’t stop when you bring the puppy home, or in this case, when you post your content online. The adventure has only just begun! In other words, maintaining the content you publish requires a long-term commitment of your team’s time and resources, so publish wisely.

The fourth session discussed navigating digital acquisition, specifically the “build a thing” and “buy a thing” approaches. If you are building a custom digital solution, the speakers recommended:

  • Structuring your procurement around a statement of objectives (SOO)
  • Asking vendors to showcase past work and provide access to code repositories for experts on your team to analyze
  • Using a time and materials (T&M) contract type, and
  • Building the solution using iterative sprints.

If you are buying an existing product, you’ll want to:

  • Structure your procurement around a statement of work (SOW)
  • Leverage a firm fixed price (FFP) contract type
  • Perform usability testing with actual end users
  • Review the product’s accessibility, and
  • Plan to configure (never modify!) the product to your environment.

During this procurement phase, you’ll want to ensure that any solution is FedRAMP-authorized, and you may want to start by creating a minimum viable product. A minimum viable product, or MVP, is a product with enough features to attract early-adopter customers and validate a product idea early in the product development lifecycle. It is a good way to solicit internal buy-in from leadership and stakeholders before developing or buying the full-featured product.

Maintaining content after you “go live”

The final session focused on post-launch activities. Just because your digital content is live (you brought the puppy home), does not mean that you are done with it.

Content will need to be refreshed, restructured, and even removed over time. You’ll want to continually assess usability, improve technology platforms, use lessons learned, potentially incorporate enhancements that are on your post go-live roadmap, and make key decisions about who owns and continues to maintain the published content.

The speakers also discussed evaluating what true success looks like — a willingness to evolve content and approaches over time. One “hero,” an individual who does it all, cannot sustain a website long-term. It’s a team effort, and successful websites use the foundation of best practices and agility to address needs over time.

Integrating metrics and accessibility testing early allowed speakers to pivot to address user feedback, and keep content fresh, relevant, and available. They noted that successful websites continue to expand after launch, as the team goes beyond a minimum viable product. This lifecycle includes the decommissioning of content and websites over time. They also discussed using transparent documentation and training for a successful transition from the website’s original developers to a new team who will maintain and update the website.

It’s all about the public’s experience

Ann Lewis has light brown, shoulder-length hair, and is wearing dark colors. She is smiling, and an American flag is seen behind her right shoulder.

Ann Lewis, Director of Technology Transformation Services (TTS) at the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), provided the closing remarks for’s Spring 2024 Community Summit. Lewis bridged the gap between policy and implementation to center the government’s digital focus on customer experience. “This means not just doing the work,” she explained, “but being practitioners who teach folks around us how to use these tactics and ideas to build better government experiences.”

Lewis highlighted the importance of M-23-22 and encouraged practitioners to use the memo as a starting point for improving digital connections with their audiences, “This is a treasure trove of best practices and a framework to make government work for the public.”

She ended the event with a resonating call-to-action:

I hope you all feel empowered by what you have learned and heard from each other … the meaningful discussion today can and should be taken back to your agency to improve your processes, websites, programs, and to start conversations about what is actually possible with digital experience in government.—Technology Transformation Services Director, Ann Lewis

In future blog posts, we’ll do a deeper dive on each of the five sessions and share additional resources to help you on your digital content journey — and show you how M-23-22 can help you successfully serve the public through creation and maintenance of quality digital resources.