Recent executive orders around cybersecurity and customer experience (CX) catalyzed digital transformation efforts across government, helping federal agencies build trust with citizens and ensure government services are accessible, equitable, and secure for all. While many agencies are pursuing these executive orders separately, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is taking an innovative approach for holistic digital transformation. In alignment with its mission, DHS unites cybersecurity and CX to improve public services and build public trust.
The Importance of Trust
The Department of Homeland Security’s mission includes safeguarding U.S. travelers through the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), responding to natural disasters and assisting with disaster recovery through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and protecting U.S. citizens from cyber threats through the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). The agency is also responsible for naturalizing new citizens through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and ensuring border and import/export security through U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The DHS’s presence in myriad aspects of citizens’ lives—both online and in-person—frequently requires the handling and securing of sensitive data, including personally identifiable information (PII). Combined with the agency’s core mission “to protect our nation,” as explained by Erin Godinez, Director of Homeland Security Solutions at Maximus in a recent interview, “the agency truly sits at the intersection of cybersecurity and customer experience.”
A user-focused, intuitive design approach to modernized digital services is key for securing and enhancing the customer experience. “In the private sector, customers can stop doing business with a company if they have a poor experience,” Godinez said. “This is not an option with government-offered services where a single unfortunate encounter or a data breach at one agency can result in a negative perception and general mistrust.”
Balancing Cybersecurity and Customer Experience
To better serve citizens, the DHS is working to support customer interactions with both safety and ease of access. The CISA Secure by Design guidance calls for IT solutions to be created with security built-in during the design and manufacturing process, not bolted on at the end of development. However, complex security measures can detract from the user experience and prevent customers from accessing resources. To address this, the DHS uses a holistic approach to develop technology solutions with human-centered design principles in mind and enable delivery of fast, reliable customer service without compromising security. DHS agencies are using emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) to find a middle ground between safe to use and easy to use. By using FedRAMP-authorized virtual assistants, USCIS is able to provide AI-powered support while still adhering to federal safety regulations.
In the interview, Dean Irwin, Senior Director of Cybersecurity at Maximus, explained how the TSA could implement a similar approach to balance cybersecurity and CX. “When deployed correctly, cybersecurity and customer experience principles balance each other, such as when multi-factor authentication (MFA) provides login security with minimal imposition to users,” Irwin said. “Agencies such as TSA have thousands of employee users spread across the country who need to access secure networks from various endpoints. Enabling this in a safe and seamless way requires zero trust architectures and tools that allow easy and secure access … With these tools, agencies can meet cybersecurity mandates while offering a good experience.”
Achieving this balance requires both secure, efficient technology and insight into customer needs to optimize the way technology functions. DHS is turning to public-private partnerships to leverage industry leaders’ best practices and insights. Through partnerships, government agencies can “break down silos between customer experience, service delivery, and cybersecurity to develop systems and applications that provide a positive customer journey,” Godinez said.
By designing processes and technology solutions with both security and convenience in mind, DHS can deliver a seamless and secure customer experience that improves access to online transactions, information, and the delivery of benefits. A comprehensive approach to digital transformation empowers DHS and other agencies to serve the public securely and efficiently. By using tools to deliver secure and seamless experiences, DHS unites cybersecurity and CX in a way that builds public trust and confidence.
To learn more about how DHS unites cybersecurity and CX, read the full interview.