SBA CIO Says Agency Switched to Telework ‘Without Missing a Beat’

The Small Business Administration (SBA) transitioned to telework “without missing a beat,” quickly implemented new programs, and scaled to adjust to a mass number of new users amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic thanks to prior IT modernization and cloud transitions, per CIO Maria Roat.

“It wasn’t just flipping over to telework for the agency. It was also responding to the Paycheck Protection Program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan programs,” Roat said at an April 23 AFFIRM webinar.

“We just flipped over without missing a beat, which was great. All the collaboration tools that we’ve put in place and being able to scale quickly—all of that worked,” she added

As small businesses across the country seek help through Federal funding and loans, Roat documented a “huge uptick” in online activity. The volume of emails rose to 10,000 per day and, after a tweet from President Donald Trump linked to the agency website, 93,000 users visited the site.

SBA quickly adapted to the changes, she said. In just eight days, SBA stood up a lender gateway for the payment protection portal. The agency also developed a rules-based platform that automatically sorts emails to get them to the correct case workers, she said. Since the move to telework, Roat said that SBA has tripled its staff.

“It’s just been incredible how we’ve been able to use cloud-based tools, and all of those things to support the mission. And all of this is building on capabilities that we’ve put in place over the last few years,” Roat said.

Meanwhile, SBA is also paying close attention to cybersecurity, Roat noted. Small business loan portals are now geofenced so that only individuals in the United States and its territories have access and SBA cyber employees are shutting down online impersonators. Roat said that in the last two weeks, SBA has been working alongside the Department of Homeland Security to close eight fraudulent websites and two Twitter accounts impersonating officials.

“While we’ve been going through COVID and continuing on all this work, security is front and center on everything we’re doing,” she said.

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