IT modernization can be helpful for agencies to optimize their workflows, but chief information officers (CIOs) at a number of Federal agencies are prioritizing the optimization of customer experience over some of the agencies’ more internal needs.

At a March 8 webinar hosted by Federal News Network, Jamie Holcombe, CIO at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), explained how his agency’s move to a hybrid workforce has allowed it to rethink its workflow, which was originally based on a paper system.

“The digitalization of that, that workflow, really was not optimized for the online experience. Instead, it was just modeled after a paper-based manual system,” Holcombe said. “In order to optimize, we really have to redo that workflow, and that’s what we’re in the middle of. We’re trying to figure out how to make it more efficient for the customer, not for us.”

“So often, our websites and the things we throw up online represent the bureaucratic organizations that we put together,” he added. “At the PTO, what we’re trying to do is break down those bureaucratic barriers and actually create it from the online experience, from that user community, from the fee payer.”

At the IRS, CIO Nancy Sieger stressed, “customer service is such an important part of the Internal Revenue Service mission,” and the agency has “significantly transformed our customer experience” over the last few years.

Sieger said her agency has made an effort to build up its online presence for customers, creating an experience where customers can service all of their IRS needs online. Additionally, she said the IRS installed customer call-back for over 70 percent of its toll-free lines, using voice and chatbots for real-time services.

“We focused on the right technology, we built the right foundation to grow with our future. Now when people call the Internal Revenue Service, they don’t necessarily have to wait for a human agent,” Sieger said. “I’m very, very proud of the progress we’ve made in the customer experience space.”

Soldenise Sejour, CIO at the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), said customer experience is also a focus for her agency, where they are “focusing on modernizing our intelligence systems so that we can enhance the user experience and enhance our ability to share that intelligence data with all of our customers.”

Sejour said her agency is especially excited about the first-ever DHS Intelligence mobile app, which came as a result of lessons learned from the pandemic.

“We had to really shift and we were able to do that with the technology that our department CIO provides to us on the unclassified side. But that also got us thinking, how can we change the user experience in terms of the unclassified side and how we most efficiently and effectively share timely intelligence with our state and local, tribal, territorial and private sector partners,” Sejour said.

The result was the mobile app, which changes the user experience and brings a different method to sharing intelligence information with customers. Sejour explained that her office is the only Intelligence Community element that is responsible for sharing intelligence data with its state, local, tribal, territorial, and private sector partners.

According to Sejour, the mobile app “highlights the power of partnering and changes our user experience, not just within the department’s intelligence enterprise or within the intelligence analysts that are Federal employees of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, but it changes the experience for our customers or partners at the state, local, tribal, territorial, and private sector and really works to change that user experience and strengthen our ability to share timely intelligence.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.