CIOs are working with CXOs more, but still largely in an advisory role

The Office of Federal Student Aid is working on upgrading IT and improving CX simultaneously, but CX teams remain relatively new.
(Getty Images)

Collaboration between chief information officers and customer experience officers is on the rise at some federal agencies, though CIOs still largely serve as advisers on CX projects.

The Department of Education‘s Office of Federal Student Aid established what it calls the Next Generation Program Office with members of its CIO shop to upgrade IT and improve CX simultaneously, said Wendy Bhagat, director of the product marketing and delivery group.

Still, programmatic teams lead the projects the CIO office advises on, and the CX team works more closely with contractors, Bhagat said.

“Having said that, I believe the CIO office at Federal Student Aid will be taking a larger part in our work,” she said during an ACT-IAC event Wednesday. “And I think there will be a lot more collaboration for us moving forward.”


FSA’s CIO office already created a Salesforce Center of Excellence to help the CX team use the software in its work, and a similar CoE is expected for Adobe’s Campaign platform, Bhagat said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has a CX office at the department level that partners with its CIO office on multiple enterprise IT initiatives in need of human-centered design.

But that doesn’t mean early collaboration hasn’t been “challenging,” said Simchah Suveyke-Bogin, chief CX officer.

The CIO and CX team partnered on website modernization, which required analysis of how the public engages with USDA’s brand digitally. Looking across every USDA domain and website was a “big ask,” Suveyke-Bogin said.

Suveyke-Bogin’s team also held workshops with the CIO office, inviting each USDA component agency’s webmaster to discuss the resources they lacked to meet customer and employee needs. Out of that effort came the USDA Digital Strategy Playbook.


USDA only stood up its CX team in 2017. FSA, on the other hand, established three CX groups two years ago for brand and design, product marketing and delivery, and customer analytics. All work together closely, with the brand and design group focused on usability testing, user research and human-centered design when building products like the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form or the FSA Loan Simulator.

Bhagat’s group oversees customer communication channels like email, texts,, mobile apps, social media, and paid media.

When the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed and student loans were deferred, the product marketing and delivery group assembled a team, including CIO office members, to plan messaging among different borrowers: regular payers, delinquent borrowers and those in default. The group examines communication analytics and refines its processes whenever the loan deferral date is extended.

“And so we actually took the time to develop those customer journeys, figure out what pain points they may have along the way and then develop a communications plan for them — thinking through who they are and what they need at that moment,” Bhagat said. “And that was developing a page on that was devoted to coronavirus flexibilities and constantly updating that.”

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