Calling it a fundamental change in how the agency does digital, the International Trade Administration launched a new iteration of its Trade.gov website. It’s full of new features to help companies that export, or hope to. For what went into this digital services effort, the ITA’s acting chief information officer, Rona Bunn spoke to the Federal Drive with Tom Temin.
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Tom Temin: Good to have you won?
Rona Bunn: Thank you Tom.
Tom Temin: Well tell us first of all the constituents for these websites, who uses them and why do they use them?
Rona Bunn: So as you may already know, ITA’s mission is to create prosperity by strengthening the international competitiveness of U.S. industry through the promotion of international trade and investment. We ensure fair trade and compliance with trade laws and agreements. Our new unified website, which we affectionately internally call one-web, services a wide variety of clients and constituents, looking for services that will give them tools and information, and other resources to assist them in various aspects of international trade. Our constituents range from U.S. businesses and exporters to foreign buyers, foreign investors, congressional staff, researchers, economists and legally community.
Tom Temin: And when they’re looking for tools, these are the rules and regulations they need to look up before they can go ahead and send something overseas?
Rona Bunn: Yes, we will connect our constituents with other people that could help them to trade. We have experts all over the country that could also help them. These tools, maybe industry analysis, they may be things that relate to helping them to overcome a barrier for trade as well.
Tom Temin: All right, and the goal of the redesign, because people could do that before, what were you trying to accomplish with these new it orations?
Rona Bunn: The redesign is really a component of a long term agency strategy to ensure that we can consistently meet and exceed our agency priority goal. Which is currently to increase the dollar value of U.S. exports and investment facilitated, and we want to do that be able to consistently do that 10% year over year. We aim to assist the small and medium enterprises. In order to achieve this goal, we have to thoroughly understand our client specific needs. And we have to have the ability to provide the highest value service’s to each specific client segment. The new digital ecosystem and website gives a comprehensive in complete transformation of our digital business. It brings together what was previously a set of disparate and often disjointed web efforts into a unified and client friendly experience. We undertook this is a way to get a best in class digital experience that connects them to the information, the services they need most in the most efficient way. It also means that we’re achieving our commitment of the tenets of the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA), that was released last December.
Tom Temin: And did you work with small businesses? Did you bring them in to say, how do you actually work with us when you’re on our website? What is it you need? That kind of thing that people often do in the customer experience designed type of process.
Rona Bunn: Yes. So we we have experts internally that work with our constituents, our clients regularly, so they have collected that information over years, and we’ve actually kind of done a study that led us to implementing these types of making decisions, to implement these kinds of tools for them.
Tom Temin: Because often I would think, you know, small businesses want the government to be a window to things and not a barrier. And so it sounds like you were removing some of the difficulties they might have had in dealing with the ITA, with the old system.
Rona Bunn: Absolutely. We had disjointed websites and we were managing things in silos. And so we brought them all together so that way we would be able to get them what they want quickly. Actually, we will have the ability, in the very near future with the tools that we’ve implemented to curate data that specifically for them. We will be able to to meet them right where they are. We will have the ability to assess whether they are new to exporting or whether they’re more advanced than we will serve them up the information that we’ve collected over years and built and designed for them so that they can access it quickly and be able to move to that next stage without barriers.
Tom Temin: And does it taken account based approach? That is to say, the assumption that people are gonna be back from time to time, and so when they come back, the ITA through its web system will know who they are.
Rona Bunn: That’s exactly right. So the tools that were that we’ve implemented allow us to understand who the customers are that are coming, look and be able to assess what they’re looking for to make sure that we’re actually giving getting them the things that they need. We have a substantial amount of actually groundbreaking amount of data that we are collecting and were able to analyze that data and to make more informed decisions about what things they actually need.
Tom Temin: How did you do the redesign? Was that a contractor? Did you have in house staff? Any new technologies that you brought in?
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Rona Bunn: Sure, we actually stood up an office of digital strategy and engagement, which is housed within my office, which is technology services and innovation. And they were formed with the express and explicit mission to promote digital strategy. And so, yes, we brought in actually a contract team as well to stand up this new digital ecosystem that we have implemented today. And we also are holding the business units, holding their hands throughout this process to really embrace a new digital strategy. When we started to stand up this digital strategy organization, we actually went out and we laid out an information architecture that would accommodate the entirety of our digital content into one uniformed structure. And then we laid out the principal design guidelines based on the U. S. Website standards.
Tom Temin: Is the whole thing in the cloud now? Or do you have your own data centers? What about that aspect?
Rona Bunn: Yes, we are 100% cloud at ITA. All of the services that we’ve implemented are in the cloud. We are using software as a service as well. Our platforms are in the cloud. Our software is also in the cloud. We’re using various digital marketing technologies to implement the solution as well.
Tom Temin: And how will you measure success earlier? You said that 10% growth in the value of U.S. exports is the overarching goal. That’s a really big one to kind of lay on just the website.
Rona Bunn: Yeah, and, so first foremost, we’re collecting dynamic stats on the activity, and we’re getting feedback dynamically also from our clients and, for example, some of the things that we’re really concerned with that let us know that we’re having success is you know, did they find exactly what they were looking for? We’re asking them that. Did they have a good experience? Did we service? Did we actually service more clients? Would they recommend our site to someone else? We’re collecting that through various methods, as well as some dynamic tools that are embedded within our new experience. Secondly, we’re looking at success of our own internal transformation. So our teams collaborating more productively and generating the kind of compelling digital content and service is that makes us the first stop on a client’s journey for helping exporting investing in the U.S. and finding trade and data analysis. And are we helping them with their trade barriers? And we have internal metrics that help us to measure that. Also is the content and are the services we provide the most relevant and consumable digital products available on the market. And so we are doing comparisons with the other areas in which they are looking at to get that information, the tools and the resources. Are we digesting and analyzing that data to make the most informed decisions possible regarding our continued investment and digital or investment in products and services throughout development and execution? Ultimately, our biggest is obviously our agency priority goal. And so did we increase the dollar value of U.S. exports and investment that we facilitated. And did we do that 10% over last year?
Tom Temin: All right, I guess it’s too early to tell them at this point, huh?
Rona Bunn: Yeah, a little too early to tell. But we have started to collect those metrics. We have had tremendous success. The organization is really at a place, they’ve dreamed about this for 10 years, and they can now see exactly what their clients are looking for. And so I look forward to sharing with you in a few months from now how will we are actually doing in this new endeavor.
Tom Temin: Thanks so much for joining me.
Rona Bunn: Thank you.