Nikhil Deshpande – GeorgiaGov Interactive

As Director of GeorgiaGov Interactive at the Georgia Technology Authority, Nikhil Deshpande leads the team responsible for managing Georgia.gov, the official online portal to Georgia state government, and a web-publishing platform for state agencies and elected officials.

Nikhil envisioned and led state government’s transition to an enterprise web-publishing platform based on Drupal, an open source content management system hosted in the cloud. The platform currently supports 78 state agency websites. Under his direction, Georgia became the first state in the nation to use Drupal across it’s enterprise and meet special needs of constituents with a range of disabilities affecting vision, hearing, motion and cognition making the platform Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 AA compliant.

Nikhil strongly advocated the use of social media for Georgia.gov when using social media for government was not common, and established a presence for the state on Facebook and Twitter to quickly address citizens’ questions and concerns.

Nikhil also serves as adjunct faculty at the Atlanta campus of the Savannah College of Art and Design, where he teaches graduate classes in Interaction Design and Game Development.

Follow Nikhil on Twitter

    Available on Stitcher


J: Welcome back everybody. I can say I am super excited for today’s show. We have Nikhil Deshpande. He is the director of GeorgiaGov Interactive. If you’re familiar with USDS or any of the federal government digital services, this is the same thing but at the Georgia state level. I’ve know him for quite some time. He’s a great guy doing great things at the state. Welcome to the show, Nikhil, how are you today?

Nikhil: Thanks J, this is, I’m good. I’m good. I’m really excited to be on your show.

J: It’s good to have you. As a way of getting started, tell everybody a little bit about your background. How you got to work for the state government and what you’re working on that’s exciting.

Nikhil: Sure. My background, is UX design, really. And I graduated out of my undergrad learning graphic design and then worked in advertising for a bit before I went to do my Masters in back then was what’s called computer art and UX interaction design was one of the streams I could choose and focus on, which I did. Right after my grad school, I started actually working for the state of Georgia because back then they were looking to put together what they, back then called is a creative group. They were looking to bring in new perspective and really wanting to change how state government deals with citizens. They needed fresh ideas so they formed a little team in Savannah and that’s how I started working in this little office in Savannah which was a satellite and then we used to work with state agencies up here.

About, I want to say 10 years, 11 years ago, they moved that office because they realized it’s better to have it here in the same location so you could interact better. That’s how we got here. I’m in this position for the last six years now where I’m the director for the digital services and really our charter is to drive everything from a user focus. From a citizen first perspective. We have been looking at changing our technology landscape that really aligns well with our citizen first focus. It’s been a good ride and every year we get to do something fun and interesting which really enhances the citizen experience for their interactions with the state of Georgia.

While I’m doing this on also, side for the last 10 years or so, I have been teaching at the Savannah College of Art and Design, SCAD. Their Atlanta campus, my alma mater. It’s really nice to have the interaction between academia and something that I’m doing in the field and how both of them can actually influence and enhance each other.

J: That makes sense. You’re a brave man to do both government and academia at the same time.

Nikhil: It’s actually really a good combination because the academia interaction of students where anything’s possible and no idea is a wrong idea, has helped me come up with fresh ideas. Just the mindset it’s not that I apply the same ideas here but just the mindset that we are not just confined with what has been happening and what is possible based on the framework that the states works but just constantly focus on the innovation aspect of it.

J: You’re working on stuff like people getting their driver’s license or paying their taxes or getting a permit to build something. What are some of the other projects where you have identified that going with, as you call, the citizen first approach has really made a big impact on the usability or the ease or the just how quickly somebody can get something done?

Nikhil: We for the last few years have been focusing on making the web interaction different. There was a lot of information as all of us can attest to. Government sites tend to get a little carried away with reflecting what the organization is and all the org chart is pretty much a reflection on their website. That is something we wanted to started having conversations. Really nobody cares about your organization, nobody cares about what the head honcho has to say. People are there are for specific tasks. They just want to know that one piece of information so how can we get to that? Those conversations, when they started happening at that level, obviously initially we got a lot of resistance because it’s a very cultural shift from where people were used to. This is where we slowly started chipping away at showing results where we found agencies, state agencies that were actually okay to take this approach and see what happens. They started seeing that wait, our interactions are way high, or traffic’s high, people are staying longer on our sites.

Slowly that mind shift started to happen and then we also architected a tool that allowed us to do this better. Earlier, about six years ago we were using an outdated tool, very enterprise mindset tool but then we moved to open source and then we really built a platform that we felt like we could serve the best from an information perspective and that really starting making a big change on how organizations viewed themself and viewed their content and started delivering just from a web perspective. All the applications you mentioned are really on the next thing on our roadmap.

J: When you say move to open source, do you mean that you adopted some existing open source technologies or that you started releasing what you were working on into open source?

Nikhil: Yes and yes. Content management system that we had in the past was proprietary and the licensing cost and everything were just crazy. We moved to Drupal. Six years ago we architected a platform using Drupal. We took an existing distro that was used at the federal level and then we customized it a little bit for what was really specific for some of our agencies and what their use cases were. For the last six years or so, we have literally doubled our footprint. One of the things to say is that this being a government service for state agencies and elected officials, agencies are still not required to use our services. They can easily go out and procure their own services if they have their budgets.

J: Meaning that the Secretary of State doesn’t have to use the stuff that you build, they could to do something on their own if they wanted to.

Nikhil: That is correct. And that they actually do. They do not use what we handled. Department of Revenue, Labor, driver services a lot of the other large agencies like human services, they all use this platform. At this point we have about, a little over 70 agencies hosting around 83, 84 websites with us.

J:  Wow, that’s a pretty big infrastructure.

Nikhil: It is. It is. And at one point we used to host ourselves and big part of my job was to just make sure the lights were on and nothing was on fire and then six years ago when I took this position of being the director for digital services, that was the first thing I decided. Nope, we are not doing this. We don’t want to be bogged down by just logistical nightmare. Let’s just move to the cloud and let’s focus on what is the core, which is strategy. Let’s focus on partnering with agencies and making sure their digital presence truly gets enhanced by everything that we work together. That’s where this platform came along. And the best part of this platform is if one agency has a certain need to do something and we develop it for them, we develop it with a mindset of maybe other agencies want to use it as well.

We find that common need and only then we develop. We definitely don’t say, “Okay, well what do you need? Okay, a ticker. Sure, well here. Go.” We are like that check and balances right there. Were just like, “Okay, is this something you want or is this something you need?” And if it is something that you need, let’s talk about who needs it, how do they need, how they’re going to be using it and then that’s really how our development feature roadmap goes along.

J: Somebody comes to you with a request, you validate that request and then you see where else that request might be applicable across other, as you say, agencies. Most citizens probably think of them as departments. Agencies, then develop something that is applicable to all of them instead of just being a single serving or a one use thing.

Nikhil: Correct. Correct. We are very focused on, okay, we understand as a department, you need this. But then let’s look at how a citizen will be using that and then we have a very problem first approach. Is don’t tell us what you need from a solution perspective. Tell us what your problem is, let us work with you on understanding that problem and then we’ll figure out a solution.

J: Right, right. What of kind of benefits have you seen that render across all these different agencies? I’m assuming the thing that seems obvious to me is just cost and time. If you’re developing something that can be deployed across 70 agencies then each one of those agencies doesn’t have to go out and procure somebody to build that and build their own variation of it. It seems like you save a tremendous amount of time and money that way.

Nikhil: Absolutely. The cost savings are just tremendous. Just think about 70 departments don’t have to have at least two people hired to manage and maintain the technical aspects of their website. Because that’s what it really used to bog down to. Someone who manages the hosting aspect and the server aspect, the patching and everything. And the other person who probably would be just back then in the old days, the webmaster. Who knows a little bit of HTML.

J: When that was a real title.

Nikhil: Exactly, exactly. We empower departments where someone from the department, they take ownership of the content. Somebody who understands content and content strategy and then there are multiple, if need be, content contributors that then pretty much add content contributed and this person decides on how and when, based on their strategic planning, content needs to be published. There are some smaller agencies that don’t have this, and they are like 10 people of departments in which case we help them out with their content but it’s a really good model and the more I think about this the last few years, this is not a model that should be exclusive for government or for states. Any large enterprise that has multiple departments and uses technology really should be able to just look at what a platform provides as a value and to your point earlier, 50 different departments don’t have to reinvent the wheel. If it’s done once and if it done the way you can just implement it for multiple sites, that’s huge cost savings.

J: Yeah, yeah, that. Can you talk about the process? If somebody comes to you with a request and as you already said, don’t tell me about your potential solution, tell me about your problem. Can you talk about the process of articulating that problem and working with them to determine what a potential solution might be?

Nikhil: Sure. Every project that comes our way, we have a discovery phase which is we try to discover everything about what that agency does. Who their users are based on what their understanding is of their users. For the past few months we have truly started implementing the UX process where we even start talking about personas and we start talking about just the flavor of the person that that agency needs to use and needs to have in mind while having these conversations. We truly first understand what are they trying to solve from a problem perspective and that’s not always the case where they come to us. Like I said earlier, they’ll be like, “Hey, we need an app to do this.”

Always the conversation has to be like, “Okay, I heard you. Let’s talk about what the app’s going to do. What problem are you trying to solve?” And then it just turns out that hey, they just need something that could very well be just a website but that just responsive and caters to a mobile device. You don’t really need an app. We always drive that conversation from the first phase of like, let’s define the problem and then we move onto the solution aspect of it. Who is it that is going to be using this? This is where we start focusing on the whole problem to solution mapping aspect of it and then we work with them on okay, if it’s a website, if it’s a content focused problem then what else can we do? Before we come up with a solution for them we really make sure that we have the problem defined well and this is where we resort to the why aspect of it.

We just keep asking these questions of why is it? Then okay, if this then why is that? And once we feel like we have the problem defined then we start building on solution and then we present them the solution, we also present them, well, this is where your problem was. This is where your goals were and this is how the solutions is actually going to address both of that. And we also show, these are some of the key performance indicators, we don’t just assume saying, this is the best solution for you, but this is where the iterarial approach comes in. Is let’s roll with this, let’s do some initial testing, we really like testing and we really like to see how something is being used by our constituents and thankfully for all the recent tools they’re able to do that and numbers obviously speak volume compared to opinions or even what they would look at as expert feedback. We’re like, these are the numbers, people are actually gravitating towards this solution. This is probably the best thing for here.

J: Right. So you’re using real data to drive decision making.

Nikhil: Yes, yes.

J: Who’s typically involved in that exercise? I’m sure it’s people from your team but also stakeholders from the agency’s team. How many people do you try to get involved and how do you corral all of those different opinions and personalities and get them pointed in the right direction?

Nikhil: It’s tricky. I wish I had a template answer for this but it really depends on which agency it is. Because there are some agencies where the commissioners are just personally motivated to be part of the conversation and then it just turns out to be the whole hippo complex of the highest paid person in the room, their opinion obviously trumps others. This is exactly where I am lucky to have the support of my leadership where I’ve had situations where I’m like, I’m sorry, I’m going to have to disagree with you. I understand you are at a level where you’re used to people nodding and getting things done but what you’re suggesting just does not make any sense because here’s why. And here’s where we resort to data.

Before we say, for example, if someone says, “Hey, we want to join your platform.” We first ask them, what analytics are you using? What numbers are you able to provide us? If they don’t have anything, which has happened, it’ll be a shocker for a non-public space listener. A lot of the websites just did not have analytics plugged on them. And we were like, well this is the first thing you want to do then is we give them coach numbers that they put on their websites. We start collecting numbers. A lot of the larger agencies have call centers so we ask for what people are calling about. Just give us all of the qualitative information. I don’t care even, I won’t say I won’t care, but it’s good to know how many call and what the call volume and how quickly they’re able to attend to the calls. We’re looking for way more than that.

Once we put all of that data together, that really adds to these little pieces of the puzzle for us to start looking at the big picture of, okay, then clearly if these many people have called in about this, what have you done on your website? In my mind, this is all these various channels coming together. Going forward what we’re really trying to push is this whole omnichannel approach of digital strategy. Is let’s just not deal with these things as their own silos and which they totally are because call centers are handled by someone else, applications are handled by somebody else, even within the same organization and there is barely any crossover of information sharing. In the last couple of years I have actually seen that this has started to happen where people are looking at the big picture by piecing these pieces of information together. But earlier that was just not the case. The first time I remember asking for numbers from a call center, they gave me these many calls, this much time to answer questions and just happy giddy that they’re meeting their goals for answering under five minutes.

Are you collecting any qualitative data? What are they calling about? So the next time they would give me here’s a list of all the departments they are calling about. Great, we are inching closer now. Now ask them to log exactly what is it that they’re calling about. Once we got to the meat of it, then I’m like, wow, this is a gold mine. This totally drives my decision strategy.

J: Yeah, I would imagine that it’s pretty eye opening for the people even in that agency. They suddenly realize there’s all this activity that they weren’t even paying attention to that could help drive good decision making.

Nikhil: Absolutely, absolutely. Once they start seeing that, oh, wait a minute, based on this, if you can just put up a quick webpage where we can just point them to, then that actually saves over the next three minutes. Somewhere even like their goals come in by just creating a better user experience or a citizen experience where all these channels come together.

J: It’s a stark contrast between what you’re doing in government and what most people are trying to accomplish in the commercial world or in the business world because you don’t have those clear revenue metrics that you need to meet in a lot of cases, I’m imagining. Someone once told me that government differs from business in that government gets stuck with all the jobs business doesn’t want to do. I’m curious, what kind of metrics are you looking at to gauge the success of a project? Is it satisfaction? Is it time spent accomplishing a task? What is it?

Nikhil: There are multiple, there are multiple performance indicators I would say. And you’re right, yes, we are not so stressed on end of the quarter number projections and meeting numeric goals. But at the same time, government does rely on similar business metrics, I would say. Just take an example of a government service. A lot of the services that citizens use are funded by tax dollars and every year in Georgia as the legislators come together, they literally decide on the fate of all these services and these agencies, these departments are tasked to support these services. Somewhere that accountability is there where we want to make this successful because then our consumption really helps our existence. If a service is well used, if the usage expands then it’s better funded. If it’s better funded then the agency is better staffed. It is either state revenue or also some of the federal dollars go in it. It’s always good to show that what we are doing is successful.

A couple things from my perspective, when we work on projects, I really like to see time as less spent onsite. Where people, when it is information, they really like to come in, soak in what they want or they’re looking for and then go. If it’s an application then obviously go all the way to the end of the application where they are complete the transaction. The way some of the private sector websites would like for their sites to hold onto people as long as they want, as long as they would like to, in some cases on our case, the inversion of that expectation is actually the goal. In some cases where people need to understand certain ideas or certain concepts of how they should be dealing with a certain program, that’s where we were like, okay, well, this is if they spend more time on the website, that means they’re now going to be calling of our call centers.

Clearly, there was a study done way back in Georgia where obviously they put numbers on it, but these are old numbers so I’m not going to say the numbers, this is common knowledge that it takes more or it costs more to attend to your user in person versus helping them over the phone versus helping them online. At one point we actually had numbers on it. The whole idea is to just drive everything to an online presence but at the same time you don’t try and not lose that expedience aspect of it.

J: And keeping track of the right metric. ‘Cause, as you said, time spent on page might be great if you are a fiction novel site or something but if you’re trying to accomplish a task, you don’t want somebody sitting on a page for three to five minutes ’cause that could indicate confusion and that’s the exact opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish.

Nikhil: Exactly.

J: Can you talk a little bit about what kind of tools and processes you’re using? Maybe post discovery phase. Are you doing any kind of testing? Or how are you iterating through and making sure that you’re actually accomplishing the goals that you set out to when you had the discovery phase?

Nikhil: Sure. We do a combination depending on the project, what makes sense. We do some paper prototyping and we find that’s the easiest for someone to understand what’s going on. Lately I’ve been showing them similar wire frames on a screen but we always have to do a very introductory, okay, let me tell you what we are going to be looking because the first thing people see on a wire frame is like, oh, wait a minute, this is whatever our site’s going to look like? So we had to do a little bit of expectation setting. But just focus on the content. One thing that we don’t do is do lower map sum. We first really dive, make sure that the content is ready and after the IA and everything’s done, that’s when we move to a wire frame stage and then we go through several iterations based on our testing. We use in person testing if need be, we use remote testing. We sometimes also use third party tools like what used to be like the five second test to now I forgot the new company is that they actually assume all of these little testing solutions.

We leverage all of these tools to give them as honest feedback on if we do this, this is how users are actually going to be using it. Once we have that validation, then we move on to the building them a prototype. We don’t really go, do into mock ups or anything. That’s the rough testing phase and then we just stand the site for site and then the whole iterative part of that happens really on our staging environment with them. They are always, to your question earlier about who do we include in this? Literally we have stakeholders right from the commissional level sometimes to someone who is just a program manager or a project manager just for this project. But we also make sure that someone who will be assuming this project after the project does deploy is also part of the conversation.

J: Right. So one of the stakeholders who’s actually to be working with whatever it is that you’re delivering. Whatever that website or application or tool is, you want someone who’s going to be working with either managing that or facilitating other people using it to be involved in that entire prototype process.

Nikhil: Exactly. Because we have seen in the past where, and this is a learning experience, we just literally I learned this through going through all these projects and someone who would be a really good hands on person handling this product on the department side, once the site goes live, boom, they’re assigned something else and the person walks in is absolutely just like a blank canvas. That entire aspect of onboarding from a vendor perspective is really daunting because they come in with a different mindset, a different set of ideas and they start questioning why this is done, why that is done. It’s always good to have someone who will taking the responsibility of that project going forward. That’s something we make sure that is part of that team.

Honestly, I try to drive it as much as don’t have decision by committee because everyone who is part of the decision process should be at the table and we all should be able to talk together. In the past when someone says, “Okay, this is great. Let me take it back to the team.” Or, “Let me take it back to my leadership and see what happens,” they always came back with the craziest ideas and we’re like, okay, what just happened? We had this conversation and it’s almost like that never happened and we have to start over again. It’s always good to have those people in the conversation at the table and also once they are part of that conversation they feel like they have some ownership on it and it’s not just that they are put on the hook to say yay or nay for a certain solution. If they’re part of that solution while the solution is being developed, that’s really the key for A, having the right people say the right things at the right time but also them feeling that piece of ownership into the final solution.

J: Right, and that’s an important lesson that two things happening there. One, is we have to remember that the people that we’re building things for aren’t trained on how those things get built and why decisions get made. By involving them in the process, it helps them understand that a little bit and then also that if they are part of how that product makes it into the real world, they have a greater understanding and appreciation for it once it’s actually in use. You’ve eliminated two things there. As you’ve exposed a bit of the process and helped people understand why things are being made the way that they are and then trained them along the way so that you’re not just giving them a new thing and telling them, dropping them into the deep end, so to speak. Here’s your new piece of software, here, figure out how to use it. They already know by the time it gets deployed.

Nikhil: Right. Exactly. That knowledge buildup already happens until then. And it’s also then, going forward, a lot easier to get future buy ins because multiple people have been enrolled and then they know exactly where, why this was put together. They know the intentions for it. One of the things that we have just started doing and this is looking at what UK did is just drive the …

J: You’re talking about the United Kingdom government site.

Nikhil: Yes.

J: Beautiful, great work.

Nikhil: Gov.uk, amazing. I know that I’ve talked to some people out there, it’s not a very, I would say, popular for their agencies because it’s very constricting for agencies but I can see why they have to put that stringent framework in place to begin with. One of the things that they did and I’m really trying to implement that here, is every project, the way that they have the, every project has a business owner. I really want to establish the idea is, our true business owner is the citizen because we are using taxpayer money to build whatever it is that we are building. If that doesn’t work for them, we’re just doing a disservice for what we are using this taxpayer money for.

I don’t think from a philosophy perspective anybody would object to this but as you probably know, a lot of people have very passionate feelings about how a project should be driven and how decisions should be made and then when they hear no because this is not going to be helpful for Susan who has a certain level of disability or certain level of restriction, we shouldn’t be doing this, then they were like, well, wait a minute. But I own this project. It’s like, not really. Susan owns this project.

J: You’re just the steward that has been put here to help make sure that Susan’s tasks can get accomplished.

Nikhil: Exactly, exactly.

J: Again, which is a bit of shift from the business world where it’s all about selling a product or delivering a service and we’re starting to see some, the business world come around to that same philosophy of being truly user centered or in your terms, more citizen centered. Maybe those things are aligning much more than we think.

Nikhil: They really are. And as we see around us, we all can agree that Apple really opened everyone’s eyes to making everything user centric and user focused. It’s just so assuring to see what other organizations are doing now. Just seeing Home Depot have such a huge UX team is just amazing that someone of that scale is investing so much on UX.

J: I’ve had opportunities to chat with a handful of people from Home Depot and they really have bought in whole hog to this concept of putting the customer in the front of the experience and it’s back to exactly what you said, the Jobs-ian idea of the experience is the product. It’s not so much about the physical item or the service that gets delivered but the entire experience of using that product or that service.

Nikhil: Absolutely, absolutely. With the state, now it has also started happening where if somebody else can create a better experience but charge people for using their products which does exactly what they otherwise they could done with the state, we are seeing that people are actually choosing to do that. If that’s what’s happening, we really should get our A game on and create that experience for the constituents and save them from those service fees that somebody else is charging them just to get them a better experience.

J: Exactly. I wonder at what point does the types of services and how they are delivered by a state government become an actual competitive advantage? We see states compete for corporations all the time. Mercedes has moved here from New Jersey and Florida and everyone’s advertising all these tax credits and everything. I wonder at what point, not just from a business perspective and a big corporation perspective but from an actual citizen perspective, at what point does it say, “Well, I’d rather move to Georgia because it’s really easy to be a citizen there.”

Nikhil: It’s true. We, Georgia and Atlanta specifically, we are lucky to actually get a huge resident migration, we can call it where for the last few years we actually seen the numbers go up and that’s truly a testament for all the businesses who choose to stay and function in Georgia and I know the Department of, can’t think of the name right now. Georgia.org, basically, they have done a great job of attracting businesses and the film industry. Georgia is second to California now for what the film industry now looks like nationwide.

J: I thought it was higher. I was chatting with a friend of mine at the Department of Economic Development and he was saying that in terms of film production, we are the highest in the country and second in the world only to what people call Bollywood.

Nikhil: I would definitely would take his word then on that. Yes, that’s the department I was thinking of, Economic Development. They have been doing wonders with attracting business and attracting film crews. It’s funny because I work in downtown and most of the times when I just walk out to grab a bite or something, there a shooting going on somewhere or the other. Filming going on. At one point I used to be like, oh, what’s going on, what are they filming? Not it just like, oh, okay, well, they got this street blocked let me just take a detour.

J: It’s become part of every day life.

Nikhil: Exactly, exactly. And it’s great. I have a couple neighbors who are part of the production teams and they just talk about this gigantic sets they have built around. Just amazing what they have done. A state can actually do so much to create that environment. We also have really good relationship with cities and the city of Atlanta is doing amazing work and they’re on their way to become a smart city. Some of the meetings that I’ve been part of and what I’ve heard, they’re really are trying to make sure that the whole user experience aspect of someone who lives in Atlanta and interacts with Atlanta is changing. Between the state and the local governments, the experience aspect of it can truly be enhanced by these little things like we think the website might be just one of the things but that makes a big difference for someone who just moved to Georgia and want to find out what needs to happen to change things and which doors they need to knock on. That’s where we did that with Gerogia.gov.

A few years ago we changed the content to add each year. Earlier it was all structural. Here’s the section for business, here’s the section for transportation, here’s the section for this. We just really dove down to what is it that people are looking for? What is it they’re asking? We scrubbed the whole structure of the site and just boiled it down to a very topical conversation. Now we just have these 50 most frequented topics, we call them popular topics, and that actually delivers information in a very user friendly way where if someone says, “Hey, I want a driver’s license, or I want to renew a driver’s license,” then they can just go there, they have everything in a very basic structured form that they can just look at. Okay, these are the things I need and these are the best times to go and boom, it’s done.

J: That such a change in thinking from the way most people feel about government sites. It’s always an arduous task. It’s like, ah man, I gotta go and do this thing through some government website and I know it’s going to be atrocious but you’re really changing that and it’s changing the way people perceive interacting with their government, not because the website is better but because they got their job done and it wasn’t a big pain in the butt.

Nikhil: Exactly, exactly. To quote the great Jared Spool, from the scale of something that is just excruciating to deal with and something that’s it just absolute pleasure to deal with. I don’t think the government experience can ever slide all the way to the pleasurable side because whatever we do, we do it because we have to do it. But even if we make the process easier, that where we can have a huge win. Where, I’ve paid my taxes or paid ticket, but hey, it was easy. There is no insult to injury where okay, I gotta pay but also then suffer through a really convoluted system to pay my ticket.

J: I don’t know if you had any, can take any credit for this but I did have an experience recently, I just had to get a new license plate, just bought a new car and got a license plate in the mail and it wasn’t the license plate that I had recommended. So I went to my local tax office and I walked in, I told them that I received the incorrect plate, they asked me which one I wanted and I told them and they gave me the new plate and I was in and out in less, literally, less than three minutes. That story alone, the fact that I’m talking about how delightful it was to go to the tax office for a license plate, is a sea change in dealing with government. That might not be a digital system that I actually touched but that, I’m guessing, is a system that you probably helped to build and made it easier for the person sitting there handling my request to get their job done, which in the end, made it a much more delightful experience for me.

Nikhil: I wish I could take credit for that but I definitely should not and it’s a county I would say, office, not a state office. But this is exactly where we are trying to drive from. As a citizen you don’t care if it’s a city function or a county function or a state function. You just look at it as government. You want the least friction as possible and then even if something starts from one end that trickles down or just goes across the spectrum, that is amazing. Yes, you’re right, I have also experienced a lot of the things where the driver license office, I was in and out within literally, 15 minutes where I remember when I moved to Georgia, my first experience was just excruciating.

J: That’s exactly what you’re trying to prevent, right?

Nikhil: Yeah.

J: It’s been a great pleasure chatting with you today. If somebody wants to hear more or find out more about what you’re working on, maybe chat with you a bit about it directly, where should they go? And how should they get in touch with you?

Nikhil: I’m on Twitter @nikofthehill I can definitely engage in the conversation there. I also love when people reach out, connect with me on LinkedIn or just send me a message on LinkedIn. I like to chat there as well. We have a website called, interactive.georgia.gov. If they go there they can find my email and how they, if they want to also reach out to anyone on my team. It’s always nice because I, since we moved to this platform and we are doing this digital services piece of it, a lot of other states, other organizations, profit, non-profit, they reach out and they have all kinds of questions so I’m always happy to answer and always happy to just also know what they’re doing. That really helps me as well.

J: Sure. Great. Well, Nikhil, again, thanks for coming on the show today. We’ll link up all that stuff in the show notes and I look forward to chatting with you again soon.

Nikhil: Thanks, it’s always a pleasure to chat with you, J, and yeah, I look forward to meeting you again.