User experience, cloud migration on to-do list for SBA CIO

The Transportation Department’s former chief technology officer is using her experience to guide the Small Business Administration down the road to citizen engagement.

Speaking at a Feb. 22 summit hosted by FCW, SBA Chief Information Officer Maria Roat said she is working on modernizing the agency and addressing management challenges.

“Part of the road map through this fiscal year is modernization across the board for our infrastructure, maturing our capabilities and planning for the long term,” Roat said. “I’m working with a number of the program offices where there are separate cloud implementations and determining how to bring those together. It is about the data in some instances … the customer data … how and where data is moving and being used, how we’re sharing the data and assessing how do we bring that data together for better insights into SBA’s programs and customers. A lot of this year is laying the groundwork moving into a second year.”

To help tackle that work, Roat hired an employee with data expertise, whose job is to build and mature SBA’s data capabilities, including understanding how data moves and is used.

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“We have pockets where people are using different analytics and visualization tools and we are building our technology stack to standardize on software tools,” Roat said. “He’s a shop of one and he has a lot of work ahead of him to build a data program.”

SBA stood up a digital service team about a year ago, with a focus on updating the agency’s website. About a month ago, they unveiled their work updating the agency’s website.

“At least the homepage to start with now is more responsive, more flexible and easier, instead of a standard website that’s been around for a while,” Roat said. “The team has a road map, the digital service team is engaging and laying out a roadmap for SBA, what are those services that citizens need, how do they want to use it, how do they use our services in understanding.”

Roat said she wants to develop a consistent look and feel across SBA’s website, so that users get a “unifying experience” when they visit the site.

In that same vein, Roat said she is also looking at the applications running across SBA’s systems, and how they are talking to each other.

“We do have separate systems right now, for tracking whether somebody’s interfacing with Program A, Program B, Program C, Program D,” Roat said. “There’s different customer information in all of those right now. Being able to look across all of those so that we understand it’s the same customer but they’re using multiple programs; we don’t have a good handle on the identity management piece. We are working on that.”

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Roat said SBA is also in the process of moving information out of its data center into the cloud, which will help engagement with internal customers and external customers, by “having a robust cloud architecture.”

“Maybe not in one cloud environment, a hybrid cloud environment, where I can support those customers that are out there,” Roat said.

SBA is also in the process of merging its two GitHub sites into one.

Roat credits her background in engineering and networking for knowing what questions to ask when she moved over to SBA back in October.  Roat said she hasn’t had a lot of interaction to date with new SBA Administrator Linda McMahon — she was confirmed by the Senate on Feb. 14 — but the two women talked about IT during a briefing last week.