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Choosing Tech Wisely for the Customer in 2020

When smartphones first landed on the scene in the early 2000s, Nagesh Rao — currently the Director of Business Intelligence Technology Solutions (BiTS) in the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) — refrained from adopting the technology.

“As someone who knows tech — I was a materials engineer in a prior life of mine — I didn’t buy a smartphone right off the bat,” Rao said. “I waited three, four years until it was a bit more perfected.”

In the government technology world too, having an appropriately choosy perspective toward adopting technologies may be a compelling approach to consider. As Rao centered his smartphone decision around the value he would receive as a customer, agencies must center their IT efforts around the value they provide their customers.

At GovLoop’s online training on Wednesday, “Fireside Chat: Exploring the 2020 Tech Landscape,” Rao and Isaac Constans, GovLoop Staff Writer, shared insights into the gov tech trends anticipated for the coming year, which included being customer-centric through strategic data use and encouraging shared services among agencies.

SBA is a small agency that “fights above [its] weight class” to provide resources for entrepreneurs across the country, Rao noted. With the customer as a focus, technology must then be a digital ambassador so that when small business owners need or want to access the agency’s services, SBA employees can better serve them by eliminating redundant interactions and having relevant, digitally accessible information on hand.

But how will they do that? Strategically using data is an answer.

One of the projects the agency has been building is a customer relationship management tool called SBA Insight, which aims to understand what kind of data each agency business process needs and how to collect it. Standardizing business processes by viewing data strategically is ultimately enhances the customer experience.

“I’ve heard 2020 dubbed the year of data, which speaks loudly to what agencies are doing to actualize that goal — turning data into a strategic asset,” Constans said.

Anticipating the customer’s needs and desires is what helps the agency figure out what kind of technology stack they need, Rao said. A customer-centric mindset is how agencies can hone in on adopting the right technologies for the best or widest impact in agency mission.

In addition to prioritizing the customer, shared services are another initiative that agencies have their eye on to develop and expand in all levels of government, Constans noted. They have cost-saving benefits without compromising agencies’ access to tech capabilities.

For example, after Los Angeles County’s assessor’s office was able to migrate to the cloud from its mainframe system from the ’70s, the office shared that capability with other smaller counties that couldn’t afford to do the migration themselves. They called it “Assessor-as-a-Service,” and 60 to 70 counties were able to access expanded capabilities through the shared service, ultimately serving their local constituents and customers better.

“So much of this is putting the customer first,” Constans said.

In 2020, government technology will change and surge forward while agencies continue to focus on their main, unchanged mission — serving citizens. “Our mandate is to be customer-centric for all 300 million citizens in the U.S.,” Rao said. “Every citizen has a right to this resource.”

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