Nov 15 2023

FedTech IT Influencers Praise Federal Customer Experience Advances

Successes at IRS, Space Force and DOD are among the modernization projects that are winning approval from those on our 2023 list.

The Biden administration’s call to improve citizens’ experience with government has taken hold among federal agencies, whose CX successes have gained the attention of FedTech’s 2023 federal IT influencers.

“By focusing on life experiences that require touchpoints with public sector organizations, agencies are taking a human-centered approach to government service delivery,” says Jonathan Alboum, the principal data strategist and federal CTO at ServiceNow. “Each great experience that we can create is a small but important step toward rebuilding trust in government.”

The executive order, issued in December 2021, specifies that agencies must work to “transform customer experience and service delivery” to regain that trust.

The website, which tracks agency progress on the EO, notes that citizens should expect to be able to fill out forms, make appointments and get assistance through the channel of their choice, as well as navigate the processes for government benefits and services securely and easily.

“Making customers the priority is crucial for the government to deliver more effective mission outcomes,” says Dave Wennergren, CEO of the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council. “I’m encouraged to see agencies across both the civilian sector and the Department of Defense making CX an imperative.”

FIND OUT: Learn more about Fed Tech's Influencer List for 2023.

IRS Pilot Provides ‘Incredible’ CX Example

The IRS, burdened by funding shortfalls, lack of staff and aging IT (some more than 60 years old, according to a Government Accountability Office report from February) received praise from several FedTech influencers for its modernization progress.

“I was very happy to see that the IRS created its free Direct File pilot this year,” says Garrett Berntsen, director for technology and national security at the National Security Council, in his personal capacity. “This is an incredible achievement, considering the complexity of the filing processes and need to coordinate with a number of different states.”

Taxpayers in 13 states — four that decided to partner with the IRS and nine that don’t have state income tax — may be eligible for the program in 2024.

The pilot “shows how, for a relatively small investment, government can deliver results for the American people that save them time and money, and make their lives a bit easier,” Berntsen adds.

Francis Rose, host of the Fed Gov Today podcast and television show, says that the IRS project stands out for him “because of the perception people have of the IRS’s tech posture. The work they’re doing is proving the IRS can do more than they thought they could.”

EXPLORE: Read IT influencer Eric Egan's take on the digital services needed to improve CX.

Cloud Migration and Cybersecurity Project See ‘Outstanding’ Progress

Some customer experience successes focused on communication with and among employees. The Space Force this year released the Guardian One app for mobile devices; it gives the force’s Guardians access to USSF news and social media as well as to a Space Force handbook.

“Within its first week of release, Guardian One was trending as the No. 2 downloaded mobile application in the ‘Free News and Information’ category,” says Space Force Chief Technology and Innovation Officer Lisa Costa.

Cybersecurity and cloud migration progress also caught the attention of FedTech IT influencers. Katy Mann, Okta’s senior vice president of public sector, gives a nod to fellow influencer Jen Easterly, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and her team.

They’ve done “outstanding work driving awareness and the adoption of stronger security practices by promoting the use of multifactor authentication and the availability of more phishing-resistant passwordless options,” she says.

“This is by no means their job alone,” adds Mann, whose company publishes the annual Secure Sign-In Trends Report. “We all have a role to play here, as a federal or industry player.”

Dave Wennergren
Making customers the priority is crucial for the government to deliver more effective mission outcomes.”

Dave Wennergren CEO American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council

READ MORE: Check out a CDW•G white paper on how zero trust can improve agencies’ cybersecurity.

Steve Faehl, federal security CTO for Microsoft, noted the Department of Defense has made major strides toward a zero-trust environment. The military branches have until 2027 to finalize their zero- trust plans; civilian agencies have until next September.

A successful purple team assessment of the Navy’s Flank Speed, its enterprise cloud environment, “validates Navy’s approach at scale for 500,000-plus users and demonstrates that target-level zero trust is achievable,” he says. “The Zero Trust 2027 strategy has revolutionized DOD cybersecurity.”

And the GAO, which produces the Watchdog Report podcast, praises the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Homeland Security for completing IT assessments to find out what was worth migrating to the cloud.

“Based on the results of these assessments, these departments migrated multiple IT systems to the cloud by May 2022,” the agency stated in an email. “As a result, USDA and DHS reported they will save approximately $115 million over 5 years — primarily from not having to operate and maintain older systems.”


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