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DOL CTO Says UX is Key to IT Modernization

DOL CTO Sanjay Koyani says user experience is guiding the agency’s IT modernization.

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The Department of Labor is taking an innovative approach to IT modernization, aligning its efforts with user experience and mission objectives to drive better outcomes, the agency’s CTO Sanjay Koyani explained.

“Our core thing is that we look at how we incubate, test and accelerate technologies in a proof-of-concept piloting environment. So, if it’s our robotic process automation, artificial intelligence, new advanced technologies, we look at how we bring it to the process,” Koyani said during the Approaching Emerging Technologies in a Data Rich Environment at the U.S. Department of Labor Thursday.

DOL is also modernizing its enterprise architecture to be more efficient and effective with its technology. Koyani explained that his agency is connecting technology innovations to business needs, then using the outcomes as a driver for success. For DOL’s enterprise data platform, Koyani is focusing on creating a modernized, mature platform that better positions the agency to leverage data for automation, integration and better insights.

At the core of DOL’s modernization efforts is user experience. Throughout his tenure in government, Koyani has shifted from traditional modernization approaches to an iterative model that enables more testing and leverages user experience as a driver for pilot efforts.

“We’re trying to create a better customer experience with the end-user by providing them with information and data that helps inform them along the process,” Koyani said.

Currently, DOL is focusing on developing chatbots, robotic process automation and AI. Koyani is honing in on DOL’s user experience strategy and iterative development to ensure that the agency’s technologies are created, designed, tested and validated with the user “at the heart” of the solution.

“We bring all that through an innovation incubator with a focus on how we streamline our approach to assessing and upskilling technologies to ensure that what we’re doing really is enabling the right level of technology,” Koyani said. “The user experience really needs to be at the heart of what we do. It needs to be one of the drivers for how we define success.”

Claims processing is one area where DOL is taking this user-centered, AI-enabled approach. Koyani explained that claims examiners currently process 3000 forms a month. DOL is using AI to quickly deliver benefits to citizens. DOL is also automating data to increase accuracy and processing times as well as reduce beneficiary payment timeframes and enhance customer service.

“We look at the issues based on the first step, print it up, make sure that we can do it in a repetitive way, and so now all these elements that were being done by hand are now being served up so the claims examiner can see the information faster—generally with fewer errors—and they really get to work on a much better organized file to assess,” Koyani said.

As DOL moves forward with its IT modernization, Koyani said that he’ll be focusing on culture change and communication to ensure the agency’s workforce and innovative technologies can work together to ultimately improve end-user experience. By aligning modernization with DOL’s mission, the agency can accelerate the pace of culture change and workforce technology adoption.

“If you get the cultural piece right, that other stuff will fall in line a lot easier. So, what I focus on is truly looking at what is your case for change,” Koyani said. “We just hadn’t been able to define the need yet. What is the secret sauce? Why are we doing what we’re doing? Why are we the only ones who are able to do that?… it’s it takes a while to get down to those elevator pitch.”

After Koyani joined DOL in 2020, he established DOL’s Emerging Technology Branch, which supports the agency’s workforce recruitment and retention strategies. Because DOL’s IT modernization is still in its infancy, Koyani said that he’s focusing on identifying small successes, then building and expanding on them.

“We’re still relatively small in the emerging tech space. So, looking at where the pockets are already happening within the department, and how we can then harness that with Centers of Excellence and communities of practice, so that we can really extrapolate not just what we have here, but getting all those minds, all different areas of focus, and synergizing or harmonizing the work that’s happening there. This becomes a really important and an additive effect as we build it out,” Koyani said.

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