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To Better Serve Citizens During Life Events, The Public Sector Must Improve Cross-Agency CX: Part 2

In 2017, the General Services Administration (GSA) established the Centers of Excellence (CoE), including one charged with improving CX. Many federal agencies, including USDA, HUD, ODNI, and FDA, joined GSA in establishing their own CoEs. Not only did they see the mission critical work that could be improved, but they saw the business value in better serving their customers.

The Biden-Harris President’s Management Agenda (PMA) has as its second highest priority to deliver excellent, equitable and secure federal services, with a goal of improving CX on a set of five different life experiences that touch multiple agencies.

To improve cross-agency CX, we must understand how people are experiencing disjointed government programs. We need to stand in line at the housing assistance office; sit beside them as they attempt to apply for emergency nutritional support online; and wait with them on hold as they attempt to find safe, affordable daycare. Together, we must define the outcomes we want to achieve and the systems that need changing to achieve those outcomes.

The Administration should be applauded for their efforts to improve CX. It’s thoughtful. It’s important.  And it will make tremendous impacts in the lives of citizens. And while the barriers are high, I offer three feasible, tactical, and near-term suggestions for improving cross-agency CX during life events:

  • Clear direction. Contractors, federal employees, and citizens need prompt, clear guidance from the appropriate governing body when attempting a CX change. Cite policy, respond, and move on. If changes are required, do it.
  • PII solutions. There’s PII, or personally identifiable information, everywhere. We know that. But we need federal IT leaders who create, share, and endorse solutions for how to securely capture and use this information in a helpful way. This is an overcome-able obstacle. Why am I optimistic? Because we see the Department of Education Federal Student Aid (FSA) office and the IRS eFiling initiatives making real progress here.
  • Temporary Rotational Assignments. Or “details,” as it’s known in the public sector. We are in a historically tight labor market and the federal government is no exception. It’s difficult to hire CX professionals, among many other roles. Standing up cross-agency details of product and system owners can help get CX improvements made. Not the executives, the doers. The ones in the weeds who can see the customer’s pain points and are knowledgeable enough with legacy systems to know what’s possible. And leaders? Cover their day jobs, and consider making cross-agency collaboration a key component of the Senior Executive Service (SES) evaluation criteria.

As you’re counting your blessings for where you are in life, imagine someone who is not as fortunate. Someone who, by no real fault of her own, has ended up in a tough spot. Let me introduce you to Karla, an average American citizen.  

After her husband left, this single mom of two who previously had been staying home with her children needed a job. She couldn’t apply for childcare assistance until she had a job and couldn’t find or interview for a job with her two kids at home. Rent is due at the end of the month, and she has no one to watch the kids while she stands in line at the local housing office. Does she spend what little is left in the bank for rent, or does she buy food? Diapers? Asthma medication for her daughter? And with the big storm in the forecast she wonders, what will happen if her apartment is damaged? Or her car is flooded? What then?

This. This is the picture we want public servants to have in their head when called to yet another cross-agency data sharing agreement meeting. Or a discussion on how legacy systems can’t talk to one another. Or when a proposed approach that could have improved the quality of life for thousands of people was shut down for PII risks.

It has become increasingly more important to raise our standards and work for deeper cross collaboration in order to better serve our citizens.

Jennifer Folsom is a dynamic, high-energy leader with a proven record of growing all sizes of professional services firms while growing a family. She is the Vice President of Growth at ICF, a Washington, DC- based global management consulting firm. A human capital expert, she leverages a people-centered approach to drive revenue in organizations from start-up to Big 4. Jennifer loves her work but knows that living your whole best life is the ultimate key to success.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio via pexels.com

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