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FCW : January 2015
24 January 2015 FCW.COM FirstPerson released to industry for bidding? I do on projects in which I’m involved. Some of them tend to be areas of particu- lar interest to me, Secretary McDonald and the VA leader- ship. On those projects, I’ll be deeply involved in the process and partnering with other leadership, including our CIO. A lot of VA stakeholders — service organizations and others — are watching what you do. How do they have input into the digital services the VA offers? I think we could continually improve our process there. I believe strongly in user-centered and human-centered design, and that doesn’t just mean running a prototype by a small group of veterans. That means hav- ing stakeholders and end users and customers involved every step of the way. It can mean shadowing customers for weeks if you’re working on an application for a medical provider. It can mean using digital services like Mixpanel or Google Analytics to find out when people are hovering over the help button or stuck at a particu- lar point, so you can dive into that and fix it. You have real-time data to show you user paths. And [you’re] constantly iterating, understanding that whatever you design upfront is not going to be the right thing. You’ve got a mix of older and younger customers. How does that affect your approach? It’s critical to focus on customer segmentation. Our research has shown that it’s not necessarily the case that age is the divide. We have some incredibly digitally savvy older veterans and some 20-year-old veterans who prefer a high-touch environment. Being a veteran-centric VA means having a consistent experience across mediums. A digital experi- ence is available for the tech-savvy [veteran] who wants self-service, a similar experience when you call on the phone and also a consistent experience when you interact one- on-one. I think the digital experience can help not only empower digital-savvy veterans but free up human capital resources for those veterans who may need or prefer more of a high- touch interaction. When he ran Procter and Gamble, VA Secretary Bob McDonald kept his technology staff very close, and I read that he had daily contact with his CIO. Has he taken the same approach at the VA? I would say his experience being customer-centric and user-centered definitely has a big play with tech- nology. In addition to being CTO, I’m one of his five senior advisers, so he has a very close relation- ship with technology rollout and ideation. The VA has a relatively small IT staff when considered as a function of its overall IT budget. Do you have the resources you need to put this digital transformation into place? We are very excited to wel- come a digital services team at VA that can partner with our internal IT resources, collaborate on new ways to deploy or select modern tech- nology, and do training. Many of our employees are amazing and mission-driven and very talented, but they’ve been working within a legacy system. They haven’t had an opportunity to work hands-on with a more modern infrastructure. We’re looking forward to partner- ing with them to help them learn new skillsets that can continue to benefit VA for decades to come. What are you doing to bring more innovative companies into the con- tracting mix? VA is the lead agency on the Smarter IT Delivery performance goal, part of the Cross-Agency Pri- ority Goals. We need to look a lot more at that contractor relationship and understand what is stopping some of those best companies from approaching government. What are the complications in that space? How can we help them understand the process? How can we simplify the process, or if it needs changing, how do we change the process to help them work with government and provide new and better services to our customers? I think the process could be clearer, and I think that there are things that could be done on both sides to help improve it. n We need to look a lot more at that contractor relationship and understand what is stopping some of those best companies from approaching government. 0115fcw_022-024.indd 24 1/6/15 1:27 PM
November and December 2014