Federal CIOs Discuss Customer Experience-Driven Modernization

Modernization on a grand scale is no longer a question for the federal government.

In addition to investing in new technology, government agencies are also exploring how to modernize a citizen – or customer – experience to deliver on the mission.

At the end of 2021, the Biden Administration released an Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government. This makes customer experience a priority for agencies to focus on during their transformation journeys.

During the Federal Executive Forum’s, “IT Modernization in Government 2022” webinar, a panel of federal CIOs from the Department of Homeland Security, Internal Revenue Service, US Patent and Trademark Office, and an industry expert from Verizon, discussed their best practices when it comes to modernizing efficiency and effectively. Below are the highlights from each speaker.

John Harris, Executive Director, Federal Civilian, Verizon

Harris commented on the importance of the impact of user experience and making interactions easier and access more equitable. He shared how telehealth connectivity supported the Department of Veterans Affairs throughout the pandemic. He noted that “we’ve provided solutions via a mobile connection to allow veterans across the country to access their provider from the comfort of their own home. We are making sure that this experience is available, accessible, and easy to use.” It’s critically important for these veterans to have access to the technology on a regular basis, no matter their location.

Nancy Sieger, Chief Information Officer, Internal Revenue Service

Customer service is an important part of the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) mission. Sieger explained how the agency is modernizing its contact centers to improve the customer experience for the more than 50 million callers to who access its toll-free line every year. “We have created a robust online account experience, where customers can service their IRS needs online,” she shared. “We have developed a strategy for using voice and chats bots to help people with basic and personalized information by providing our collection services through bots.” This process, which has been within the past two years, manages filing volume and enables customers to access real-time solutions without needing to escalate to human interaction.

Soldenise Sejour, Chief Information Officer, Office of Intelligence & Analysis, Department of Homeland Security

The Office of Intelligence & Analysis is charged with sharing intelligence data with state and local, tribal, territorial, and private sector partners. The Office rolled out the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s first intelligence mobile app to make sharing knowledge easier. The pandemic compelled the Office to think about innovative ways to share intelligence data. Sejour commented that “most of our work is done on the classified fabrics, so we had to shift. We were able to do so with the technology that our department CIO provides to us on the unclassified side. This got us thinking about how we can change the user experience regarding the unclassified side and how we most efficiently and effectively share timely intelligence with our…partners.” This shows the power in partnering and how departments can modernize together to improve customer experience and meet the mission.

Jamie Holcombe, Chief Information Officer, US Patent & Trademark Office

While the US Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) modernized its systems from paper to digital in 1996, workflow optimization still needs to happen for the online experience. “We are trying to figure out how to make the experience more efficient for the customer, not for us,” said Holcombe. “We are trying to break down bureaucratic barriers and create the experience for the user community.”

Conclusion: Focus IT Modernization on the Customer

With the new Executive Order on customer experience driving agency interest in improving the ease and equity in access, John Harris, Executive Director, Federal Civilian at Verizon commented that “modernization is not necessarily an end journey. It is the journey itself. The efforts to modernize continue to drive the evolution of technology forward that help meet the challenges of today. By modernizing with customer experience in mind, agencies are aiming to provide better services, more quickly and equitably to those they serve.

To learn more about IT modernization for the government from federal CIOs, view the webinar.

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