USDA Wants One Hub to Connect Agency Leaders to Every Employee

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The agency wants to pull disparate intranets together and allow two-way communications with employees.

The Agriculture Department wants to build an online homepage where top officials could keep every employee in the loop on the latest happenings across the agency.

The Intranet Initiative comes as the latest effort to improve customer experience and streamline departmentwide management under Secretary Sonny Perdue’s OneUSDA policy.

“The goal of the [Office of the Customer Experience] Intranet site for USDA is to [allow] two-way communications with all employees,” officials said in a request for information published Monday. “This will enable the secretary and all leaders to send a consistent message to all team members at the same time.”

The department already operates a number of intranet sites for its various subcomponents, and the new platform would serve less as a replacement than an umbrella for the existing platforms. From the homepage, employees would be able to navigate to other sites just as they can today, according to the RFI.

The site should “be a place employee[s] look forward to going to” and offer ways for people to find information and give feedback, officials said. It must also include a place where employees could respond to polls and view their results.

In the solicitation, officials suggested dividing the page into different sections for departmental content, such as messages from top leaders and “news you can use,” and employee-focused content, like individual recognitions and anniversary announcements. The site could also include sections for calendars of events, personal development opportunities and feedback.

The agency expects the vendor to complete the site within 90 days of receiving the award. Responses are due Aug. 27.

Over the last year, the department has become a kind of testbed for customer experience and IT modernization initiatives that could one day expand across government.

In December, the Trump administration selected Agriculture as the guinea pig for the Centers of Excellence program, in which agencies and the General Services Administration partner with industry to overhaul outdated IT systems and practices.

The department recently kicked off bidding for the second round of contracts under the program. The awards cover six key modernization areas—cloud adoption, infrastructure optimization, customer experience, service delivery analytics, contact centers and program management—and selected vendors will work to implement the solutions suggested during phase one of the program.

In February, the department launched Farmers.gov, a one-stop shop for agriculture producers to schedule appointments and apply for federal programs, and it’s also piloting a platform where employees can file human resources, security and IT requests.

We want employees to “have a better experience at USDA than they do at home with technology,” said Agriculture Chief Information Officer Gary Washington in February.

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