Where Policy Meets Product

By U.S. Digital Service product managers Natalie Kates and Kelly Taylor

Government regulations can create new opportunities, mandate changes, or threaten a product’s position in the market. In the private sector, product managers deal with these challenges and opportunities by collaborating across teams to understand how policy will affect product goals and user experience.

The government navigates similar challenges when delivering services. Just like in the private sector, policy mandated by Congress and crafted by public servants dictates what must be accomplished by programs and products. More often than not, government laws and regulations are fully formed by the time anything reaches implementation teams. This places constraints on development that could have been avoided if collaboration began earlier in the process.

The U.S. Digital Service works to change this by bringing policymakers and product managers together early and strategically to inform policymaking and build better programs for the American public. In the government, policymaking is the first step of product strategy.

Bringing Policy and Product Teams Together: USDS at Health and Human Services

The USDS team at HHS is working with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to implement the Quality Payment Program. The Medicare Access and CHIP Re-authorization Act of 2015 changed the way Medicare pays providers to reward value of care over quantity of care. (You can read more about how we’re implementing QPP here.)

Using human-centered design processes, product managers, policymakers, and software engineers worked together to boil down the content of a 2,200-page regulation into ten web pages written in plain language. At qpp.cms.gov, USDS and CMS were able to make a complicated policy accessible to the doctors and citizens it impacts. USDS has seen this strategy yield success in a number of agencies throughout government and we’re excited to continue scaling this approach.

U.S. Digital Service product managers Natalie Kates and Kelly Taylor talked with Mike Fishbein of the “This is Product Management” podcast about their experience as product managers in government and how policy impacts their approach to product management.

Listen to the full episode or jump to any of the highlights below. If you’re interested in helping connect product and policy, we’re always looking for new talent — go to https://www.usds.gov/join to apply.

• How policy informs our product strategy (8:40)
• How policy goals, product goals, and user needs factor into their day-to-day decision making (12:25)
• The competitive advantages of working side-by-side with policy experts (14:35)
• Their methods for navigating policy constraints without hurting the user experience (21:00)
• The best tools and tactics for operationalizing collaboration between policy and product teams (24:00)

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The United States Digital Service is a group of technologists from diverse backgrounds working across the federal government to transform critical services for the people.

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United States Digital Service

United States Digital Service

The United States Digital Service is on a mission to deliver better government services to the American people through technology and design.

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