State Wants Better Bots and Processes For Its Help Desk

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The Consolidated Customer Support office already manages eight bots, but an ongoing project requires more user-centric automation.

The State Department division in charge of managing the agency’s help desks and support services is getting ready to consolidate and wants a better bot ecosystem—including better processes and security—as the office automates manual tasks.

The Consolidated Customer Support division operates 19 “duplicative” help desks, which the office plans to merge into a single unit. As they do so, CCS officials want to use robotic process automation to “gain efficiencies to existing processes and mitigate the need for additional labor,” according to a solicitation posted to SAM.gov.

CCS has already deployed eight automation tools: the Data Transfer Request Bot; Password Reset Bot; Data Access Request Bot; User Account Exception Request Bot; Automated Endpoint Testing Bot; Customer Engagement and Follow-Up Bot; Account Disablement Bot; and Distribution List Modification Bot.

However, the agency has “encountered several technical challenges with full implementation,” the solicitation states, including waiting on the platform and cloud environment to get cybersecurity certifications known as an authority to operate, or ATO.

State has an additional problem managing user privileges and access to bots for remote workers.

“Per the DOS policy, users cannot use ‘privileged accounts for actions that can be completed using nonprivileged accounts.’ Thus, a service center technician cannot perform ‘user’ type work in ITSM system while logged in under administrative credentials to access Active Directory tools,” the document states. “Thus, automations are not often accessed unless users are reporting into the office environment. Existing and future automations must be developed for remote work.”

The contractor will be expected to enhance and maintain the eight existing RPA tools, help develop new automation software and work with the operations and maintenance teams to implement those new tools. CCS already has a list of 11 “user story candidates” for the contractor to focus on.

While State is looking to automation to ease the workload of a consolidated help desk, the agency doesn’t want to automate bad processes and make things worse. As such, the solicitation requires “that the contractor is versed in user experience design thinking, process improvement, and agile software development.”

With that in mind, the work will require the contractor to:

  • Address the whole experience, from start to finish.
  • Make it simple and intuitive.
  • Use data to drive decisions.
  • Understand what stakeholders need.

The solicitation offers more details for each of those asks, including references to the department’s digital service playbook.

CCS hopes to start the contract on Sept. 30, though “full performance will not begin until satisfactory personnel employment suitability clearances have been received and successfully processed,” the solicitation states. The contract will run for six months, with four six-month optional add-ons.

Bid proposals as part of the first phase of consideration are due Aug. 6. In a question and answer document posted Wednesday, officials noted that vendors must submit proposals for Phase I in order to be eligible for the second phase of the downselect.

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