AI consulting in the public sector: From idea to successful pilot

Author: Eva-Maria Blank

Digital transformation brings along extensive change processes for many organizations – including and especially in public administration. The urge to use artificial intelligence presents an additional challenge. With profound AI consulting, options for the sensible use of AI can be explored together with customers, and various solutions and paths can be evaluated - and ultimately successfully implemented.

Achieving results with profound AI consultancy

Since 2020, IBM iX has been active for Minijob-Zentrale, the collection and reporting point for all marginal employment, part of the network system of the German pension insurance (Deutsche Rentenversicherung) Knappschaft-Bahn-See: We design information and communication campaigns with a clear focus on online activities. In 2022, we also completed a website relaunch and built a standalone employer portal for the online registration of minijobbers.

These operational tasks always include extensive consultancy in all areas of our core services as IBM iX: attentive and responsible guidance regarding industry developments, as well as enabling and training of certain skills, e.g. in editing, social media trends, data analytics or online marketing. This is our understanding not only since Generative AI has shaken up the service sector – but AI consulting has certainly become one focus of our collaboration with the Minijob-Zentrale.

Long-term introduction of trend topic generative AI

Before the hype kicked in, we started exploring AI options together with the Minijob-Zentrale: Along the user journey and also the cycle of content creation, we assigned the potential use of AI tools to certain points. We defined what added value each tool brings, where automation is possible and useful, and then prioritized our selection. The goal was always to support employees, improve processes and save resources in one place so that they can be invested in another.

We added demos and workshops to get to know the tools and test them. An example were prompting sessions with the team from the client’s side in large language models such as Llama 2 from watsonx.ai. With this we kicked off a personal, long-term approach to the use of Generative AI, precisely determining the needs of customers and involving them in trend development. In light of all the euphoria for the possibilities, IBM technologies and tech expertise provided trust by knowledge, experience, and a focus on security. The idea was to explore the options of AI together to enable customers to develop an opinion and prioritization when it comes to tools and areas of application for Generative AI.

Milestone: Participation in the “Staat Digital” hackathon by IBM iX and IBM

The breakthrough in AI consulting came with the step towards the actual use of AI tools and application development as part of the “Staat Digital” hackathon. Organized twice a year by IBM iX, the 3-day event brings along challenges in the digitisation of public administration. Together with the Minijob-Zentrale we chose the task of finding a solution to how AI can best support the editors of the Minijob-Zentrale. As a team of experts from the customer’s side, specialists in content design, UX design, and content strategy from IBM iX, as well as technical expertise for client engineering from IBM, we worked together to design an AI-supported editorial assistant. A demo tool that, according to the editors, actually reduces their workload.

“With the editorial assistant, we can save 75% of the effort involved in researching, drafting, and coordinating articles.”
Madeline Scholz, corporate communications and marketing for the Minijob-Zentrale

AI-powered editorial assistant – from idea to award-winning pilot

Following good design thinking methodology, we had formulated a hill that we wanted to conquer during the hackathon: “Editors from the Minijob-Zentrale create easily understandable, target group-oriented texts in no time using an editorial AI-tool that supports the entire creation and coordination process.” To do this, we first defined target group personas, mapped processes, identified needs, and derived use cases. In addition, we challenged the AI, wrote prompts, tested them and based on this work created wireframes and developed the editorial assistant.

The result was a demo application that supports editors throughout the entire process. Various Generative AI solutions are connected via watsonx.ai in a tool-agnostic manner, including NeuralSeek via Watson Discovery. During the hackathon challenges, the editorial assistant was chosen as the best technological solution of all cases submitted.

Apart from the successful closing, the days of interdisciplinary design thinking were a truly valuable experience for all participants. As a team, we experienced how this approach broadens the horizon and worked together in a very effective way – interdisciplinary, agile, and motivated.

Next steps with the popular demo tool and AI consulting

The development of the pragmatic editorial assistant has generated interest among IBM iX’s broader customer base – as a flexible tool that can overcome similar editorial challenges to those faced by the Minijob-Zentrale.

Our next steps are happening simultaneously: Deciding on the actual AI-tool connections while whitelabeling the current demo, with which we would like to open the editorial assistant as a tool to other areas of application.

Discovering the use of AI in the public sector – with IBM iX

Digital transformation entails extensive change processes for many organisations. Using AI in a meaningful way is another challenge – especially in public administration. We accompany, advise and support.

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