Bob DeLuca and Brian Whittaker are being recognized for their dedicated leadership in standing up the Information Technology (IT) Modernization Centers of Excellence at the US General Services Administration. The IT Modernization CoE kicked off in 2018 at its first engagement, as an accelerator of IT modernization across the government to improve the public experience and increase operational efficiency. The team  leverages private sector innovation and government services while centralizing best practices and expertise for holistic transformation. GSA began with a lighthouse agency - US Department of Agriculture (USDA) followed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Now, the Centers of Excellence is assisting the Department of Defense (DoD) Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Department of Labor (DOL), Government Accountability Office (GAO), National Institute of Health (NIH), and the US Food & Drug Association (FDA).

Establishing and leading the Centers of Excellence (CoE) is a complex task, requiring them to balance the Administration’s IT Modernization objectives with the needs and expectations of agencies to achieve the needed improvements in modernizing technology, improving the use of data and leveraging emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence to improve the experience provided to the agency’s customers. Establishing a cost-recoverable program of this magnitude requires the vision of where government should be, driving the realities of a business, hiring the skills and expertise necessary to accomplish these goals and delivering an outstanding service to the agency being served. 

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The CoE quickly enhances an organization’s capacity to have a measurable impact on their mission and customers through modernized capabilities and strategic partnerships. The CoE delivery model has the CoE teams embedded on-site, leading delivery, training the workforce, and engaging in a phased approach to quickly drive results. To do this, it is a top priority to understand their partner agency’s mission, needs, and expectations, challenges, and culture in a very short timeframe. This is no small feat. There are centers of excellence in infrastructure optimization, cloud adoption, artificial intelligence, data and analytics, customer experience and contact center modernization.


Benefits to the public 


  • USDA's Farm Loan Experience. Improved customer service to the public is really the primary driver for CoE IT Modernization and has been achieved in multiple successes to date. For example at USDA, the CoE focused on Farm Loan customer experience and identified solutions that when implemented, reduced the number of hours required to complete a farm loan and increased the acceptance rate for initial submissions from 69% to more than 72% (within the first month of rollout). At HUD, the Advanced Analytics and Artificial Intelligence workstream solutions will allow HUD to minimize the overall cycle time spent on program decisions that impact its customers (e.g. Claims audits, Housing inspections) which will enhance the housing services provided to the public.  

  • USDA Chatbot Prototype. Developed a prototype to improve USDA's search experiences to make it easier for users to find information. The team mined the Farm Service Agency's ASKFSA knowledge base for questions and answers that would fit well in the chatbot's interface. While the team's data scientists were creating the infrastructure and training the chatbot, the team's researchers interviewed customers to find out what they did and did not find useful in the chatbot. 

  • HUD Customer Journey Map. Introduced human-centered design best practices by conducting a demonstration project focused on the journey to affordable housing for seniors. The CoE team researched the current journey for seniors and associated activities for HUD and HUD community partners as a case study that exemplifies the common experiences of all citizens seeking affordable housing. In collaboration with a HUD cross-program Customer Experience  working group the CoE established, a visual of the customer journey map was developed from common themes and recommended solutions to address real challenges experienced through this journey.


Agency modernization stabilization. Intentionally works side-by-side with key agency personnel to foster modern problem solving skill sets, such as agile and human centered design. This leaves a modernization capability within the agency after the CoE engagement has ended. The CPSC partnership is a great example of client empowerment. The CoE created an enterprise Data & Analytics Strategy and Implementation Plan which they partnered with industry and the CPSC to create. Because of this approach, CPSC felt empowered to implement the plan on their own.


Only 2 years in existence, the CoE  have demonstrated scaling success, supported by strong leadership that champion delivery  resulting in modern and sustainable solutions.