The General Services Administration’s Center of Excellence partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture will focus efforts on consolidating the USDA’s contact centers to create an “omni-channel” experience for farmers.

Previous work on the center focused on allowing the department to see call intake, web and chat bot engagement in a centralized place, which Anil Cheriyan, director of the Technology Transformation Services, called “state-of-the-art.”

Cheriyan said that that was just the beginning of the work on the program. This next year, GSA and USDA want to consolidate several mission areas into new contact center. Cheriyan said he didn’t know how many would fold into the central contact center, but said there was “probably” about 35 contact centers across USDA.

The key for the project is to give USDA customers a single place to go, no matter which internal component they are seeking out.

“If you’re a citizen, you don’t want to be bounced around with your phone calls for every single question that you might have because the expertise lies in different areas,” Cheriyan told reporters Oct. 31 at the USDA’s Impact Expo, which showcased IT projects undertaken by the department.

The move, like most new projects within the federal government, doesn’t come without its own workforce challenges associated with the consolidation.

“As you go through that process, you really have got to make sure you’ve got the right teams in the right places with the right ability to answer those questions,” Cheriyan said. “It’s not a matter of reducing staff; it’s a matter of reusing staff and having them do the right thing in the right way.”

Andrew Eversden covers all things defense technology for C4ISRNET. He previously reported on federal IT and cybersecurity for Federal Times and Fifth Domain, and worked as a congressional reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune. He was also a Washington intern for the Durango Herald. Andrew is a graduate of American University.

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