Apr 05 2017

GITEC 2017: When Customer Service Meets IT Modernization

Agencies need to focus on citizens’ experiences throughout their digital transformation.

Government agencies need to continue to create a better user experience for their customers — and for citizens — as part of a broader transformation of federal IT, agency leaders told an audience at the GITEC Summit 2017 this week in Annapolis, Md.

At the conference, government officials recommended a series of steps to bolster customer service, including measuring outcomes, listening to user feedback and thinking of IT as part of an agency’s broader mission. In other words, to quote World Wide Technology principal technologist Rick Pina, don’t view IT as a “self-licking ice cream cone.”

IT plays a critical role in nearly every function of every government agency, panelists said.

“What is not IT anymore?” asked Andrew Jacobs, a branch chief at the Defense Health Agency.

Many IT leaders throughout government are considering a wide-reaching digital transformation that can include moving some data and applications to the cloud, as well as optimizing data centers in order to wring the most value from each tax dollar.

“There’s a lot of will. A lot of people want to make that transition [to the cloud],” said Bill Zielinksi, IT category manager at the General Services Administration. But the question for many departments remains, “How do you get there from here?” he asked.

As department leaders weigh the right infrastructure for them, agencies should consider a series of steps to ensure they are meeting the needs of all their constituents and to guarantee they get the most out of their efforts.

In back-to-back sessions, panelists suggested that agency IT leaders:

  • Clearly identify the customer. “You can’t lose fact of the people who are using it,” said Alan Constantian, deputy CIO at the Veterans Affairs Department. This means remembering that IT products can have a heavy day-to-day impact on citizens, agency employees and IT staff.
  • Stay open to new suggestions. When the VA looks for the best ways and new technologies to serve its customers, “we’re not coming in with our minds made up,” said Rosetta Lue, the senior contact center transformation advisor at the VA. “The end users are going to tell you. And when they don’t tell you, they’ll show you.”
  • Ask for feedback. Some agencies are sending out surveys or starting a customer service council to ensure they learn how their offerings are received. The Environmental Protection Agency’s office of environmental information has held town halls for IT users, some of which have attracted as many as 200 people, said the agency’s Jeff Wells. That kind of approach, he said, “goes so far in improving the relationship.”
  • Know which initiatives are most important to senior leaders. Constantian said employees don’t want to focus too heavily on day-to-day tasks and, in the process, miss the long-term goals that are key to department leadership. Instead, project managers can help prioritize what will help customers the most.

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