The OPM Hack Is Bad News For Federal Customer Experience Improvement

Rick Parrish

It’s been a rough nine months for federal cybersecurity. The huge Office of Personnel Management (OPM) hack is just the latest in a series of incidents that make people skeptical of Washington’s ability to protect their personal information. Since last fall, we’ve witnessed hacks of the:

  • OPM. Last week’s cybersecurity failure at OPM wasn’t its first run-in with hackers. In March 2014, hackers broke into OPM networks in an attempt to exfiltrate information about security clearances. Federal authorities claimed to have blocked the hackers from the network, but last week’s OPM cybersecurity failure should make us skeptical.
  • Government Publication Office and Government Accountability Office. These two offices got hacked at the same time as OPM last year.
  • US Postal Service. On November 10, 2014, the USPS confirmed an intrusion into its network that resulted in the compromise of the data of more than 800,000 employees.
  • State Department. On November 17, 2014, the State Department said that its unclassified email systems had been compromised a month earlier. Three months after the initial intrusion, the State Department was still unable to eradicate the effects of the attack.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. On November 12, 2014, NOAA confirmed that hackers had breached four of its websites.
  • President of the United States. The same attackers that breached the State Department in November 2014 compromised the White House's unclassified email system about a month later and gained access to President Obama’s email.
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Federal Agencies Must Treat Customer Experience As A Business Discipline

Rick Parrish

By now we all know that federal customer experience (CX) is disastrously weak and that improving it will boost both agency operations and the health of the political system.

We’ve also seen some pockets of hope popping up, as I predicted a few months ago. For instance: The Department of Education’s new portal is complete, the Department of Veterans Affairs My HealtheVet site now offers online tracking for mail-order prescriptions, and combines thousands of pieces of information from several federal agencies into a single site for entrepreneurs and business owners. Other improvements are still in the works, like 18F's upgrade of the Department of the Treasury's My Retirement Account website and the Office of Personnel Management Innovation Lab's redesign of

These isolated projects are good, but not good enough. It’s time for federal agencies to get beyond one-off tech tasks and the find-and-fix mentality to truly institutionalize CX improvement throughout their organizations. And that means treating CX not as a sideshow, but as a real business discipline. To do this, agencies must systematically perform the practices associated with all six CX disciplines — strategy, customer understanding, design, measurement, governance, and culture. Right now, federal agencies are failing in all of these areas.

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How Governments Can Improve Everyone’s Customer Experience

Rick Parrish

I spend a lot of time talking about the poor quality of federal customer experience (CX) and the effects it has on the public. I’ve already talked about how federal agencies averaged the lowest score in Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CX Index™). In fact, most of the worst performers in any industry were federal agencies and even the top agencies — the US Postal Service and National Park Service, which tied for the top spot — achieved scores far below private-sector leaders like USAA, Amazon, and JetBlue.

However, today I want to emphasize the national harm of bad private-sector CX. US consumers have hundreds of millions of frustrating interactions with companies every day, and that adds up to:

  • Degraded quality of life. About 50% of US households reported bad experiences, and 68% suffered customer rage in 2013, according to this study.
  • A weakened economy. Waiting for in-home services such as cable, TV, or appliance installation and repairs takes each US consumer out of the workforce for two days each year, costing $250 per person and the entire economy as much as $37.7 billion annually, according to another study.
  • Stymied business innovation. Poor CX also saps budgets that companies could otherwise use for research and development, capital investments, or other imperatives. And CX improvements translate into big bucks. Sprint saved $1.7 billion per year by avoiding problems that had prompted high traffic to its call centers.
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The Rise Of Federal Chief Customer Officers

Rick Parrish

Hundreds if not thousands of leading corporations have created chief customer officer (CCO) positions in recent years to help them become more customer-centric. Now US federal government agencies are toying with the idea of adding CCO positions and four have already taken the plunge. In my first Forrester podcast, I spoke with hosts Sam Stern and Deanna Laufer about how federal CCOs can help achieve their agencies' missions and dispeled common objections to creating federal CCO positions. For more of my federal CCO research, check out my Executive Q&A: Federal Chief Customer Officers report on or my blog post on the subjectRead more

Embrace Shared Services To Improve Outcomes–Not Only For Cost Savings

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

The perennial call for public sector reform has not slackened. The pain of austerity measures and the pressures for increased efficiency heighten that call.  And, the hype around “smart cities” amps up the pressure for municipal leaders faced with decisions about which problems to attack first, and which tools are most appropriate.  But most organizations are not starting from a clean slate. That’s exactly the issue. In most cases we’re talking about reform, about doing things differently, not starting from scratch. 

When we asked government leaders what their top priorities are, improving the customer experience comes in on top: 68% report the customer experience is either a high or critical priority.  But reducing costs is right up there with it. That’s the age-old do-more-with-less mantra.  And, from a technology perspective their top priority is to upgrade or replace legacy systems, which might not sound like the wiz bang “smart” technology we’ve been hearing so much about.  But it’s likely the smartest thing these governments can do; and when they do, they should do it together. 

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Update On The DATA Act: Nearing Nine Months

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

Well, it’s now been about nine months, and time to check in on the gestation of the DATA Act.  But before we start on what’s happened since the law passed on May 9, 2014, let’s take a quick look at what it is, and what government organizations have to work with.

This bipartisan legislation – jointly sponsored by two democrats and two republicans – is an effort to modernize the way the government collects and publishes spending information – in particular by establishing standard elements and formats for the data. The new law assigns responsibility for the task, sets out a four-year timetable for implementation, and establishes a strict oversight regime to measure compliance in the adoption of the standards and the subsequent quality and timeliness of the published spending data. That oversight is the big difference between the DATA Act and the previous legislation to improve funding transparency.  This time someone is watching, and the law has teeth.

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Four Lessons In Digital Business

Don’t Wait For Governments To Pave The Way For Digital Business

Dan Bieler

Digital transformation will fundamentally affect all aspects of business and society, which makes it a key theme not only for business leaders and CIOs but also for governments. Over the past few years, several governments across Europe, as well as the European Union (EU) itself, have each developed their own respective initiative to address the opportunities and challenges that come with digital.

However, from the CIO’s perspective, these digital agendas often fail to meet the requirements that businesses encounter as part of their digital transformation projects. While the digital agendas emphasize infrastructure and regulatory initiatives such as broadband coverage and Net neutrality, CIOs and their business partners would also benefit also from a focus on “soft issues,” such as promoting an interdisciplinary approach in university education and driving digital innovation across industry sectors. We believe that:

  • Governments recognize the digital transformation of businesses and society . . . Governments across Europe, as well as the European Commission of the EU, have recognized the importance of digital transformation to their constituencies and citizens. Various digital agendas have been developed and rolled out over the past few years with great fanfare. But in the end, most digital agendas remain high-level discussion papers.
  • . . . but governments underestimate the magnitude of digital transformation. Most digital agendas lack any real insights about broader business requirements for being successful in the digital economy — let alone any technological insights. Digitization is treated like one of many initiatives rather than the overarching theme for business and society.
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Age Of The Citizen: Empowered Citizens Drive Change In Government

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

When I was in high school – and admittedly that was quite a while ago — my neighbor quit his job as an insurance salesman to go into the car phone business. My mother couldn’t understand why someone would give up a good, stable job to sell something that she couldn’t imagine anyone ever using. Who would use a car phone? Why would anyone talk on the phone in a car? 

Fast forward a few years… (OK, a few more than a few)… and most of us can’t imagine not having our phone with us. We use our phone everywhere… And, yes, according to Forrester’s 2013 Consumer Technographics survey, 68% of US online adults use their phone in the car, and 48% even use their phone from the bathroom. Who’s guilty?! As for my mother, she has still never used an ATM card at a bank and still writes checks for cash at the grocery store, but she DOES have a cell phone and just might have used it in the car once or twice.

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Not “Smart” But Efficient: Schneider Electric Helps Cities Achieve Realistic Goals

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

My sister used to tell me that I wasn’t smart I was just organized.  I’m not here to argue (anymore) but I have never forgotten her claim. In fact, it’s true for more than just me.  It’s really what is at the heart of smart cities. It’s not about what you know but what you can do with it. The industry has been pushing “smart” on cities for a half a decade.  But the most successful stories about cities cutting their cost of operations and improving the lives of their citizens are about being better organized or more efficient. 

At the Schneider Electric Influencer Summit in Boston this week, Schneider execs and customers focused their smart city story on just that – getting more efficient. We all have heard the numbers: cities take up only 2% of the world’s surface but they consume 75% of the world’s energy and account for 80% of the world’s carbon emissions.  As the Schneider CMO cited, “If left unchecked, our appetite for energy will grow 50% by 2040.” And there is significant room for greater efficiency. The sweet spot for Schneider in this Next Age of Change is in helping cities control their public energy consumption.  While their vision  – and “marketecture stack”  – extends into water and other domains, they plan to establish their footprint with energy efficiency.  Phew! That’s a refreshing change from vendors who want to do it all.

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