Federal CIO Clare Martorana speaks at Imagine Nation ELC 2021 on Monday.

Nov 08 2021

Imagine Nation ELC 2021: Federal CIO Clare Martorana Outlines Expectations for Customer Experience

Citizens are used to working with the government online now, she says, but the government has to do better at being online.

Federal CIO Clare Martorana has three goals for a customer’s experience with the government: “simple, seamless and secure.”

“We’ve got to put customers, citizens and the American public at the center of everything we do,” she said Monday at Imagine Nation ELC 2021. “We’ve got to deliver service in an exceptional way.”

Administrator Robin Carnahan of the General Services Administration described the mission even more bluntly. “We’ve got to make the damn website work,” she said. 

In the opening session of the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC) annual meeting in Hershey, Pa. — held in a hybrid mode this year, after being fully virtual in 2020 — the two women discussed the continuing need for technology innovation. 

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Citizens Should Be Able to Monitor the Government

With Americans now used to conducting business with the government online in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, smooth customer experience is essential, they said.

“Technology is the engine that runs the government, but customers are getting a really scary look under the hood,” Martorana said. “If you ever [sit in on calls] with a call center agent, it’ll break your heart. Customers should never see what’s under the hood.”

She suggested that agency leaders “be your customer. Try to obtain a benefit or service from your agency. Is it simple? Is it intuitive? Does it make sense? Or did you land on a website that didn’t make sense?”

Carnahan called out a familiar private sector web tool that could help citizens. “Why can’t we have a pizza tracker for every interaction we have with the government?” she asked. “We ought to make it easier for people.”

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Security and Flexibility Must Be Coordinated for Federal Workers

Carnahan — who spoke via video call from her home state of Missouri, with a photo of GSA’s Washington, D.C., headquarters in the background — praised her staff for working “heroically” to keep the mission going during the past 20 months of pandemic-triggered remote work.

“But this only works if you’ve got the right technology tools,” she said. “The future of work is on everyone’s minds, and we’re trying to evolve.”

Future solutions to allow continued flexibility might include an “office in a box,” she said, or federal coworking spaces where employees could work securely, but be nearer to their homes.

Security is essential in any plan, Martorana said. With so many intrusions, data thefts and ransomware attacks affecting more and more Americans, those who approach the federal government online are especially cautious about their personal information.

“Secure means that we protect the data that is entrusted to us,” she said. “We must perform in line with the public’s expectations.” 

“Secure also means secure by design,” she added. “Cyber isn’t someone else’s job. You have to know what the challenges are in order to mitigate risk. A simple, seamless, secure customer experience is possible, but we need to have the foundational technology in place at every government agency.”

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Screengrab via Zoom