Nov 03 2022

‘Customers First’ Concept Becomes a Key Element in Government IT Modernization

DHS, DOD and other agencies are looking for workers who can handle the customer experience plus IT.

Americans and others trying to get assistance from the Department of Homeland Security and its subagencies spend about 190 million hours every year on paperwork, says DHS CIO Eric Hysen, who wants that time to be cut dramatically.

DHS is hiring hundreds of new employees tasked with improving customer experience, an issue that’s gaining traction across government thanks to an executive order issued last December.

“DHS interacts more with the American public on a daily basis than any other federal agency, from travelers moving through our land, air and seaports to businesses importing goods into the country to immigrants applying for benefits,” Hysen says.

“We were spending massive amounts of energy modernizing our technology and our infrastructure, but far less time on the process,” he says, speaking at the FedTalks conference in August. “All we accomplished was shifting this sea of numbers from paper to the web.

“One hundred and ninety million hours,” he adds. “A number that large can be hard to comprehend, and may just seem like another fact of bureaucracy, but behind each and every one of those hours is a person who is depending on us for something.”

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Cutting Down Paperwork Has Already Helped Citizens

Other agencies are doing the same as they move to comply with the executive order. At the Office of Personnel Management, for example, CIO Guy Cavallo hired 18 interns “to lower my average (employee) age and inject some life. Those 18 interns have had a huge impact.”

Hysen found inspiration in an unexpected source: a scrap of paper a coworker found on the floor of a Metro train. It contained letter codes, numbers and dollar figures that matched the paperwork necessary to immigrate into the United States.

“This was a reminder that people I see every day, who might even be sitting next to me on the train, are depending on the federal government for some of the most important things they will ever do in their entire lives,” he says.

DISCOVER: How the DOD is spreading 5G technology across the country.

DHS is now working on ways to cut down that 190 million hours of paperwork to 170 million by the middle of 2023, he adds. Changes have already resulted in survivors of natural disasters receiving an additional $347 million in assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a division of DHS.

His department’s hiring push is “the largest customer experience hiring initiative in any federal agency,” he says.

DHS isn’t the only agency looking for fresh minds. Defense Department CIO John Sherman acknowledges the competition among the agencies for new employees. “We’re all going after the same talent, and we’re all trying to expand diversity,” he says. “This has got to be a whole-of-nation effort. We’ve got to get this right.”

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