Agency to Benefit From Service Consolidation, USDA Official Says

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Unifying end-user operations and communications can help Federal agencies provide a consistently higher level of service to both employees and citizens, participants at a July 18 GovExec webinar said.

Rory Schultz, client executive at the Agriculture Department’s (USDA) Office of the CIO, explained some of the drivers of the agency’s ongoing consolidation campaign–it has nine different units, which has kept IT operations segmented–and the agency has over 100,000 employees, with the main office providing only about 40,000 users with full IT services.

“The reason that we’re going through with this end-user consolidation is really to pick up the 60,000 folks who receive some enterprise services from us, but don’t always receive the end-user services,” said Schultz. “The purpose of this was to standardize support services so that we can have consistent service levels across USDA.”

By consolidating end-user operations, USDA can use its size to negotiate better contracts and keep employees supplied with the same services with a consistent cost model and consistent service terms. “The days of one agency getting an outstanding deal on services are going to be past once we wind up picking this up, because … we’ll actually be able to give folks a bill every year and tell them exactly what they’re paying for and what their service levels are,” said Schultz.

USDA is still early on in its consolidation effort, but Schultz remains hopeful of meeting the goal of completing the task within two to three years. “I’m completely convinced that what’s going to happen as we take over these agencies is there’s going to be an immediate drop in satisfaction, because people have to do things a slightly different way than they’re used to doing. But what we’ve seen in the past is that … over the course of a couple years, that satisfaction level comes back up.”

The consolidation also requires a change in mindset, he said. “Up to now, there’s been ‘we’, which has been (our unit), and then there has been ‘we’, the rest of the department. This is a true consolidation of resources, and we hope that mutual support leads to mutual benefits for all of USDA,” said Schultz.

David Lover, vice president of strategy and technology at ConvergeOne, added that the workplace is shifting towards collaboration, and highlighted “the importance of thinking about your communication not in terms of call flows, but thinking holistically of workflows.” Lover highlighted the options available from Avaya to tie in artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and pop-up information from external sources such as LinkedIn and Salesforce when contacting people.

By adding these capabilities, workers will be constantly connected to the information they need to succeed anytime, anywhere. “Most innovation happens spontaneously. You don’t schedule innovation,” Lover said.

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