Increasing citizen-orientation in public organizations

Customer friendliness and the simplification of processes are becoming increasingly important in public organizations [1]. Nevertheless, the perspective of citizens is often overlooked when public organizations design processes and services. In particular, the rise of information and communication technologies (ICT) has led taxpayers to increasingly compare the public sector with the private sector and demand better customer service [1]. However, the public sector is still lagging behind certain seamless user-centric experiences from the private sector [2]. Reasons are stagnating resources, a lack of inhouse ICT competences, and new forms of complex crises (e. g. climate and refugee crises, or COVID) that are no longer solely affecting one department of an administration but rather call for cross-divisional cooperation and coordination.

To address these challenges, innovative concepts and methods are developed in several research streams with the overarching goal to increase the citizen-orientation in public organizations and respond to the higher demands of citizens. We can offer our practical and theoretical expertise for innovative concepts and methods like the following:


Public organizations increasingly co-produce public services with their users. The co-production of public services is generally understood as the involvement of citizens and other actors external to the public administration in the design, production, and provision of public services [3]. Citizens hereby perform the role of a partner rather than a customer in the delivery of public services. Co-production is often seen as a driver for: innovation creation to increase public value in the public sector [4], increased legitimacy, more efficiency and effectiveness of government, and more accountability [5].

Agile organizational practices

Agile is a buzzword that has its origins in software development. Projects in software development were usually processed using the traditional waterfall approach: Each project phase must be completed before the team can progress to the next phase [6]. This sequential process leads to inefficiency, especially because it is difficult to react to external and internal changes and an evaluation is only possible at the end of a whole process [7]. In comparison to the waterfall approach, an agile approach focuses on shorter development phases and radical collaboration with the client, end-user, or citizen in each phase [6]. Agile organizational practices can be understood as an umbrella term or a multi-layered approach [6] that describes a set of routines, structures, and processes (e. g. Scrum, Kanban, cross-functional teams, flat hierarchies, retrospectives, design thinking) which have the overall aim to lead to a cultural change in public organizations [7].

Reducing administrative burden for citizens

Administrative burden (AB) often occur when citizens interact with public organizations. Burden et al. (2012) define AB as an individual’s experience of policy implementation as onerous. Citizens care as much, or more, about the process of their interaction with the state as they do about the outcome [9]. It is therefore central for citizens that they perceive their interaction with the state as fair, equitable, respectful, and empowering [9]. Some AB serve as legitimate purposes - for example to prevent fraud in social welfare programs [9]. However, in many cases, AB impose costs on citizens. Moynihan et al. (2015) distinguish between three kinds of costs for citizens: Learning costs (such as the search process for acquiring information about public services), psychological costs (including intrusive application processes as well as the loss of autonomy and increase in stress arising from program processes) and compliance costs (following administrative rules and requirements).

Are you interested in collaborating with us? We provide consulting services in the strategic planning, implementation, or evaluation of your project.

We look forward to hearing from you:


Prof. Oliver Neumann


Pascale-Catherine Kirklies (PhD Student and Graduate Assistant)


[1] Indihar Stemberger, M., & Jaklic, J. (2007). Towards E-government by business process change—A methodology for public sector. International Journal of Information Management, 27(4), 221–232.

[2] Mergel, I., Gong, Y., & Bertot, J. (2018). Agile government: Systematic literature review and future research. Government Information Quarterly, 35(2), 291–298.

[3] Voorberg, W. H., Bekkers, V. J. J. M., & Tummers, L. G. (2015). A Systematic Review of Co-Creation and Co-Production: Embarking on the social innovation journey. Public Management Review, 17(9), 1333–1357.

[4] Bovaird, Tony, & Loeffler, E. (2012). From Engagement to Co-production: The Contribution of Users and Communities to Outcomes and Public Value. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 23(4), 1119–1138.

[5] Verschuere, B., Brandsen, T., & Pestoff, V. (2012). Co-production: The State of the Art in Research and the Future Agenda. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 23(4), 1083–1101.

[6] Mergel, I. (2016). Agile innovation management in government: A research agenda. Government Information Quarterly, 33(3), 516–523.

[7] Mergel, I., Ganapati, S., & Whitford, A. B. (2020). Agile: A New Way of Governing. Public Administration Review, puar.13202.

[8] Burden, B. C., Canon, D. T., Mayer, K. R., & Moynihan, D. P. (2012). The Effect of Administrative Burden on Bureaucratic Perception of Policies: Evidence from Election Administration. Public Administration Review, 72(5), 741–751.

[9] Moynihan, D., Herd, P., & Harvey, H. (2015). Administrative Burden: Learning, Psychological, and Compliance Costs in Citizen-State Interactions. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 25(1), 43–69.

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Prof. Oliver Neumann
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