USDA to rename Client Technology Services under IT modernization drive

As part of an ongoing federal information technology modernization, the Agriculture Department plans to rename one of its IT service providers to reflect a doubling down on customer service.

Rory Schultz, a client executive at USDA, said Thursday during an AFFIRM panel discussion that the agency’s Client Technology Services would rebrand itself as the Customer Experience Center, effective March 2, and would reflect a new focus on enterprise end-user services under Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

“There’s a complete emphasis on customer … This is what our secretary said, and this is what we’re going to be implementing,” Schultz said Thursday during an AFFIRM panel discussion.

Since December, USDA has been working with the General Services Administration and the Office of American Innovation to pilot a centers of excellence program that would bring the public and private sectors together to help implement the White House’s finalized IT Modernization Strategy.

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“They consider us  to be what they call a lighthouse agency, and what that means is we’re going to be the lighthouse for the rest of the government to show them how it’s done,” Schultz said.

Mia Jordan, the chief information officer at USDA’s Office Rural Development, said the agency is working to better define what projects are actually going to happen within each center of excellence, and looking find ways to “really get some bang for our buck from an enterprise perspective.”

“I think the most important thing you can do in attempting to engage in any modernization effort is to really understand your enterprise — your operations. You have to have a 360-degree review of what you’re working with. From that perspective, I’m a proponent of rationalization. It’s difficult, it’s hard. It’s something that both IT and the business have to do together, ” Jordan said. “But at the end of the day, I think you’re better for it, because what you end up learning are the capabilities that you have and how many of those capabilities you have, in terms of duplication. But also you begin to see where there’s gaps, and those then may be the candidates that end up becoming a part of your kind of modernization sequencing.”

In standing up the centers of excellence at USDA, Schultz said the agency has been working with GSA on part one of a two-part process.

“The phase right now is sort of doing all the contracts for the centers to get the consultants on board, to talk to us about how do we actually implement some of the things we’re trying to do,” Schultz said. “Phase two, which is going to come a little bit later, is the actual contracts that they let for the work for the actual centers themselves.”

Under the USDA’s IT modernization plans, Schultz also said the agency’s National Information Technology Center would also undergo a name change.

“It’s going to also incorporate some of the long-haul networks and some of the enterprise application development. And they’re going to concentrate on cloud, and they’re going to concentrate on helping people to move forward,” he said.