How a new focus on customer experience helped the Bureau of the Fiscal Service adapt to the pandemic
The Bureau of the Fiscal Service at the Treasury Department provides federal agencies and the public with a range of essential financial services. However, outdated technology and cumbersome decision-making processes had in the past prevented the bureau from meeting the needs of its customers—the public and other federal agencies—as efficiently as it could have.
Beginning in 2018, bureau leaders addressed this challenge by investing in new technologies and streamlining the bureau’s internal decision-making processes. In “Behind the Scenes,” a report produced by the Partnership and Medallia, we examine how this customer-focused modernization effort laid the groundwork for the bureau to provide federal agencies with crucial support services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Implementing robotic process automation
The bureau initiated these changes after recognizing that its federal customers increasingly preferred to use technology, rather than paper-based processes, to manage their finances. In turn, bureau leadership invested in robotic process automation, a tool that automates repetitive and routine data management tasks like entering information into financial forms.
Systematizing these tasks for financial processing procedures freed up the Bureau of the Fiscal Service to spend more time on mission-related work, such as setting up new funds for agencies to use for COVID-19-related programs and services after Congress passed the CARES Act. Agencies could only begin using these funds after the bureau completed an administrative process to set them up. Ultimately, the automated system condensed what was a day-and-a-half-long process down to four hours, enabling agencies to effectively serve the public at a critical time.
Streamlining internal processes
As part of the 2018 modernization effort, bureau leaders also established a new internal governance process that made it easier for their employees to get approval for operational changes. Previously, employees who sought these changes had to send proposals to several panels and a governance board, a complicated ordeal that could take between nine months and a year.
The Bureau of the Fiscal Service reduced these layers of approval and established a straightforward two-step process for staff to initiate operational changes. Importantly, proposals must also now include a section to describe the impact on customers. When reviewing proposals, the bureau must consider how a new policy will affect customers before making changes.
This procedural improvement paid immediate dividends. When the pandemic began, the bureau met with federal agencies, for example, to discuss how it could continue to meet their needs as they shifted to remote work. With this feedback, the bureau updated its policies and procedures—a much easier task using the new streamlined process—to serve its customers better. For example, the bureau adjusted rules that required agencies to deposit checks from the public within a certain period of time after receiving them, an unfeasible policy given the number of federal employees working from home.
In all, robotic process automation and new internal governance rules helped the Bureau of the Fiscal Service respond effectively to the pandemic. These changes represent a broader philosophical shift at the bureau—one that emphasizes the perspectives and needs of the people and agencies it serves.
To read other stories describing how mission-support offices used a customer focus to help their agencies solve big problems during the COVID-19 pandemic, check out our research report, “Behind the Scenes.”
This post is authored by Will Butler, a former intern on the Partnership’s Communications team.