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The Technology Modernization Fund is making a big investment in better customer experience throughout government.
The Office of Management and Budget and General Services Administration announced Thursday that TMF will award $100 million to projects that cut wait times for public-facing federal services, as well as excessive paperwork and other barriers.
These projects tie back to the Biden administration’s executive order on improving customer experience, as well as one of three pillars of the President’s Management Agenda.
TMF Chairwoman and Federal Chief Information Officer Clare Martorana said in an interview Thursday that the board will give “priority review” to the 35 agencies and program offices designated as High-Impact Service Providers (HISPs).
“High-Impact Service Providers are designated through a pretty rigorous process, so we already know the kind of impact that they have on our federal environment and on the American people. It’s really important for us to focus on this group, but this allocation of CX funding is available for all agencies,” Martorana said.
Agencies have until Aug. 1 to apply for expedited consideration for a customer experience improvement project, or Sept. 30 on a rolling basis.
“We’re really looking for proposals that can clearly articulate what improvements are going to be made. How they’re user-driven, what the kind of end-benefits to regular people are,” TMF Executive Director Raylene Yung said. “That’s something we’re looking for across the board.”
Martorana added that GSA’s TMF program management office has created a TMF CX interest survey for agencies interested in learning more about how the fund.
“It’s really low-friction. You can tell us about your idea, and then we can engage with you, before agencies go off and spend an enormous amount of time on a multimillion-dollar request, we can actually start engaging early,” Martorana said.
The TMF Board will prioritize investments in projects that cut across multiple agencies, cut down on wait times, reduce paperwork or barriers individuals face when interacting with federal agencies.
“It can be something as simple as making sure that a website is mobile-optimized, available and written in plain language and accessible. Those are really simple cornerstones of really good CX,” Martorana said.
The administration’s focus on better customer experience in government also links back to its executive orders promoting accessibility across government— as part of a broader focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.
“It’s really making sure that we are meeting our customers where they are, making sure that somebody can look for a benefit or service, find accurate, credible and trustworthy, timely information about that service, and then start on their journey interacting with the government,” Martorana said.
To date, the TMF has invested nearly $400 million out of the $1 billion in the American Rescue Plan funds it received. That $400 million has gone into 12 projects.
It remains unclear how many awards to agencies the TMF board will make from the $100 million investment on customer experience. But Yung said just about any amount of money can help improve customer experience in government.
“We can actually see a lot of impact with a relatively small investment. We’ve had investments of a few million dollars that have transformed entire agency systems. So I’m hopeful we can actually cover a lot of ground with this, but I think it will come down to what types of proposals come our way,” Yung said.
The TMF isn’t the only fund to back governmentwide IT modernization projects.
GSA, according to the administration’s recently released IT Operating Plan, will use what’s left of the $150 million in ARP funding that went into its Federal Citizen Services Fund to improve customer experience across several dozen agencies and programs designated as HISPs.
Yung said the FCSF will focus spending on “core investments” in shared services, including Login.gov.
“I think the TMF comes in with targeted investment in specific agencies that are seeking to adapt these shared services, or use them, or maybe even develop new ones of their own. So I see these as very complementary efforts,” Yung said.
Martorana said TMF funding can also help increase momentum on customer experience projects already in motion.
“I think many of the incremental CX projects that I am aware of, that are happening across government, they can be smaller to start with, as an accelerant to a larger project. So I think that we will actually cover a significant amount of federal agencies with this funding,” she said.
The administration, in a recent Performance.gov update, launched five interagency teams to improve the quality of services that go beyond the domain of any one agency or program office.
These include helping members of the public who are approaching retirement, recovering from a disaster, or transitioning from active-duty military service.
Agencies are also directed to improve services that support low-income mothers and children, as well as those suffering from a sudden financial loss who may be newly eligible for public assistance programs.
“They have already committed to doing work, and that usually means in agencies that you have acquisition and funding lined up. But we would really be looking to see ways where we could be an accelerant to the work that’s already underway and really maybe help them pull their roadmap in and deliver faster for the American people,” Martorana said.