Most early stage public websites were initially agency-focused as the imperative during this period was to provide information about their respective organizational structure, functions, and services via the online channel. This design approach relied upon the service requester to have effective research skills across many public functions to understand what services were available where, and under what circumstances they applied. In other words, this wave on online public portals were agency-centric and not customer-centric. However, increasingly, public service value is now being seen as best created at a cross-organization level, across agency boundaries, functions, services, and channels.

One important area of focus in intentions based design is on bundling related functions and services by similar areas (the meta-data) to create integrated set of applicable services. In the private sector, this is often the standard sales delivery model for small to medium sized busineses. A public sector example of this, is a grouping of applicable public services by demographic profile (e.g. seniors, students, etc.) whereby, based on your demographic profile, the end user is navigated to the suite of services and/or either provided self service online tools to aggregate these, or is transferred to a specialist trained in this service area (which can either be a follow up call, direct online “immediate call back” transfer similar to that used in Amazon’s Call Center, or via online chat, to name a few).

Another major area of focus in designing an intentions based portal is integrating the various channels to support a single interaction, the recipient of which is recognized and receives the same treatment regardless of which channel he or she uses. The “landing page” of the public portal a critical aspect of this aggregation and integration, and needs to be synchronized with the data stored in various legacy systems and, ideally, also has access to centralized call center to provide human based support (note: this can be now be supported with many new and emerging technologies at a much lower cost structure, should the business case identify this need).

When incorporating an intentions based design, it is critical to have a single point of contact to manage the interaction (either via the web portal, a centralized call center, or ideally a combination of both). The integrated channel contact point aggregates the various agency functions, providing the citizen with the information about the services, eligibility, and offering specialist advice among other things. A robust knowledge base system that links the two channels is a critical component to empowering both web and call center channels in this model.

In addition, it is also imperative to to understand the customer’s needs, behavior, and preferences related to the intention. This understanding of individual’s or organization’s needs allows the public portal to identify subsequent “related services”.  This further allows for public value to be realized from the interaction, as opposed to a “one off” request for information. For example, someone inquiring about food aid in a certain program or region, may also be directed to more information on the micro-lending programs also available in addition to supporting literature, sites, etc. When designed correctly, this is done without the end user having any information about the actual numbers of agencies or programs involved in managing the services, or how they work together across units in the delivery of the integrated services. This is aspect rightly belongs to the organization to manage, not the requester.

Lastly, the ability to continuously sense and respond to intention based portal requests, drives a virtuous cycle of value, a “network effect”, of citizen requests that can be aggregate and analyzed for further improvements in policy design and organizational structure. The more interactions captured, the more insights and feedback gathered, the greater the “network effect” is enabled via the aggregated, intentions based model. Moreover, this further lays the groundwork work future “semantic web” approaches, once the network ecosystem becomes self sustaining.

In consequence, the new design approaches approaches and emerging technologies now available allow for public facing portals allow the ability to ensure that public services are more integrated, accessible, and transparent, in ways that were not addressed in earlier iterations at a much lower cost structure, ultimately achieving a higher social ROI.