White House adviser floats idea of CXOs at agencies

Matt Lira speaks at the 2017 Digital Nation Summit. (FedScoop)

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President Trump’s innovation adviser has discussed having agencies appoint customer experience officers (CXOs), much like chief information officers or chief data officers.

Matt Lira, special assistant to the president for innovation policy and initiatives, said talks are ongoing, but this is the first time elevating CXOs within agencies has been floated.

With Trump in a heated reelection battle, only time will tell if Lira and the Office of American Innovation will be able to execute the idea or leave it for Joe Biden’s administration to consider. But CXOs would shake up agencies’ information technology leadership because currently CIOs oversee updates to backend systems, network security and cloud migrations — all with the goal of improving CX, Lira said.

“It’s the ‘why’ of everything we do in IT modernization,” he added recently, at Reimagine Nation ELC 2020.

Lira said the idea for federal CXOs is still taking shape. There’s concern that adding the new C-level positions without properly empowering them could create confusion as to who’s responsible for the digital user experience, Lira said. He envisions a situation where a CXO and possibly one staffer underneath are unable to accomplish what a CX team under a CIO could.

“My general view is if we create positions we need to make sure they’re not just vapor as it were,” Lira said. “Every position needs to be truly empowered to execute their mission area, and at least right now that answer may be different at different agencies depending on the organizational culture and how they’re structured.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has two customer officers who work with agency CIOs on CX. And chief financial officers, chief human capital officers, and chief acquisition officers also have a role to play, said Martha Dorris, founder of DCI Consulting.

“I’m a big believer in having a person or organization that’s responsible for bringing all the customer data and looking at the customers within an agency holistically,” Dorris said. “I don’t necessarily think it has to be done forever.”

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CIO, customer experience (CX), CXOs, Department of Agriculture (USDA), Matt Lira, Office of American Innovation, White House
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