President Biden released an executive order (EO) today with requirements for 17 different Federal agencies to make customer experience (CX) improvements across 36 areas. The order as a whole broadly focuses on ways Federal government agencies can create more seamless interactions with the public, Federal officials said on a press call explaining the White House directive.

The EO has been in the works for months, as the White House, officials from the Office of Management and Budget, and senior advisors worked with Federal agencies and pored through user research to determine where citizens encountered the most “friction” in their interactions with the government.

“This executive order is really focused on how the Federal government delivers services to the public and ensuring that we deliver a high-quality product to the public,” Neera Tanden, senior advisor to President Biden said on the call. “As we ask the government to do more, we can ensure that the government does it better.”

“So, we looked at the points of greatest friction for people with their government … and focused on ways to reduce that friction,” she added. “And today we have the executive order with over 30 actions by agencies to improve the experience that the customer the citizen has with their government.”

The order comes after CX improvements were highlighted as a key part of President Biden’s first President’s Management Agenda, released last month.

Jason Miller, deputy director for management at OMB, said the EO is just a part of President Biden’s effort to mobilize a whole-of-government effort and pointed out that 10 leaders from across the Federal government will be joining the President when he signs the EO today.

“This is building on an ongoing effort over time and really doubling down the President’s commitment to make this a central priority for his leadership,” Miller said on the call. “When you look at the specific actions, [the] specific actions were designed based on input from those who utilize those services. So they’re based on user research or based on interacting with the folks being served so that we could actually identify their needs. Agencies do that supported by OMB, and we have to do that if we’re going to deliver across the board here.”

Tanden and Miller also said a major goal of the EO is to make it easier for Americans to learn what other benefits and programs they may be eligible for. Success on that front, they said, would help cut down on the “time tax” of interacting with Federal agencies.

“That is a key component of what we’re doing, ensuring that people who access one benefit are aware of other benefits,” Tanden said. “A lot of what happens with the public is that they’re really just not aware of services that their Federal government has available for them. And that is a key component of this executive order, which is that you can go through one door and that door will let you know about other services that can help you.”

“We have information in one program that allows one agency to share potential eligibility in other places,” Miller added. “There’s also a piece of this that is about notifying people proactively, whether that’s the status of their application or about actions that they need to take so that we’re meeting people where they are [and] reducing their amount of time to track ongoing activity in their back-and-forth with any specific agency so that we’re making it easier for people in general through these interactions.”

Industry Calls for More Funding, Collaboration

On the call, Miller said that all of the actions called for in the EO can be completed with existing resources, but some in industry are calling for more funding in order for agencies to complete the EO.

Ross Nodurft, executive director at the Alliance for Digital Innovation (ADI), said ADI supports the administration’s CX efforts and “applauds the actions” in the EO, but also called for an increase in funding to facilitate the actions in the EO.

“Providing modern, accessible, secure digital services should be a core part of the government’s efforts to modernize its IT infrastructure,” Nodurft said in a statement to MeriTalk. “The Administration and Congress must provide significant resources, through funds like the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) and the Federal Citizen Services Fund (FCSF), to effectively upgrade and continually improve these important digital life experiences.”

Nodurft said that the Federal government should look to collaborate with private industry to achieve the actions outlined, as well as utilize already available commercial solutions.

“As OMB, GSA, and the designated agencies execute against the directives in the EO, they should partner with industry to bring in the best technology and services available to drive these digital experiences,” he said. “Leveraging commercial solutions and best practices will help agencies achieve their goals of providing low friction and secure digital experiences that have been validated by countless customer interactions across industry verticals like banking and health care.”

Nodurft also called on OMB and the White House to supplement the actions called for in the order by providing guidance on how to implement the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA), passed in 2018.

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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.