Commerce’s ITA has a head start on its digital transformation journey

Rona Bunn, the acting chief information officer at the International Trade Administration in the Commerce Department, said the launch of a new website is part o...

The International Trade Administration in the Commerce Department isn’t worried about moving systems and applications to the cloud—been there, done that over the last two years.

Instead, ITA’s technology modernization strategy is focused on five goals to address the next set of challenges.

Rona Bunn is the CIO of the International Trade Administration at the Commerce Department.

Rona Bunn, the chief information officer at ITA, said these five goals will help the agency take the next steps to continue its digital transformation journey.

The five goals are:

  • Strengthening mission delivery
  • Protecting the enterprise
  • Managing IT resources efficiently
  • Maintaining operational excellence
  • Cultivating the workforce

“We are focused on wrapping up a two-plus year effort to modernize our legacy platforms and the applications that are associated with those platforms. We also are deploying new, innovative, more cost effective, seamless, extensible capabilities that position ITA to rapidly implement new ways of delivering program offerings,” Bunn said on Ask the CIO. “When it comes to managing efficiently, we are stepping up the use of automation and IT risk management processes. We’ve implemented self-service for our internal user community and we are maturing that piece every single day. That’s enabling us to deploy resources and focus on more impactful and innovative things as well as user adoption.”

One of those initiatives ITA has been focusing on over the past year is a new website. Doug Freeman, the director of digital strategy at ITA, said it’s not just a new look and feel, but it’s a fundamental change to the way the agency interacts with citizens and customers.

“When we think about digital transformation we like to talk about it being our ability to rapidly adopt technology and business processes to consistently optimize our experiences to serve our clients better,” he said. “The exciting thing about the launch is it wasn’t just about the successful implementation of best in class technology, which obviously was a key part of it and we are happy to report it happened in less than nine months, but even more so it’s really about evangelizing digital transformation as a whole across the organization and really collaborating with teams to think about new and innovative ways about how we digitally serve our clients.”

Freeman said almost immediately ITA saw changes to how the mission areas are working.

“We had a digital publisher who was able to make important updates to the site in just a few minutes from their mobile phone while on the move. The important point about that is the speed from which we can get the important information out to our clients to serve them better,” he said. “That’s a great example of how we are changing the way we do digital.”

Application modernization underway

The reason why ITA easily moved into this new digital world is because of the work Bunn’s team has done over the last few years.

ITA began its move to the cloud in 2015 under a previous CIO with a goal getting out of the on-premise management of IT.

Bunn said the focus over the last year or so has been on modernizing legacy applications and platforms.

“We are heavy into solutions development. We manage over 50 applications that supports over 300 products and services so we are rolling out new DevOps tools that will ensure we have integrated and seamless processes,” she said. “We also are working to get to a mature implementation of Technology Business Management (TBM) so that we can gain new insights of cost and value of new services, which is critical for us to ensure we are making the right investments.”

Bunn said the solutions engineering team has a roadmap to modernize applications around data, payment management and other client services.

ITA is creating a customer portal functionality that brings together a host of services from payment management to events to many other agency offerings.

“Over the past year or so, we’ve been building up those new enterprise capabilities and as they begin to roll out, those applications that reside on those platforms, we’ve been modernizing the front end and integrating it with Doug’s new web presence and customer experience,” Bunn said. “We took the time to look at what we needed, where we needed to go in the future and build those modules out that would integrate those applications. So those applications that are on legacy platforms, we are moving over to the new platforms and we are going from cloud to cloud, and it made it a whole lot easier from an implementation perspective.”

The other area where ITA has reduced the burden and increased the ability of mission areas to meet citizen needs is through a self-service kiosk that rides on a ServiceNow platform.

Bunn said ITA employees can request new capabilities or services as well as address technical challenges that arise during the day.

“We have matured our ability to create knowledge-based articles. We’ve put processes in place for the customer support team who are populating the database with new things and it’s enabling our customer to get on-demand support,” she said.

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