Why: USDA’s Business Service Centers support research scientists in their mission to expand knowledge and promote global collaboration in agricultural sciences. These support services include travel & reimbursement, badges & credentials, foreign partnership approvals, and authorizations for outside funding. These specialists ensure that research is conducted in accordance with federal laws and that US economic and national security interests are protected throughout the partnership. Collocated with the field research offices, specialist had developed their own best practices for how to support their customers, however, on a national level, there were few mechanisms to share knowledge, inconsistencies in how agency policies were applied, and dramatic variability in performance.
What: Technical Assent designed and led a week long workshop aimed at creating consensus around a unified, high-performing process for each of the key business service areas. Working directly with support specialists, supervisors, and agency performance experts, we mapped out each business processes across eight regions, noting similarities, differences, and innovative practices. The teams learned what was working, what was not, and why – they began to see opportunities to improve the overall performance of each of their organizations. Based on the current state, Technical Assent worked with the teams to re-envision how the their business should operate in the future; these exercises viewed the agency’s business processes from the perspective of customers and specifically sought opportunities to improve the customer experience. At the conclusion of the week, teams prototyped the new service experiences with potential customers to further refine their solutions before handing off the innovations to internal agency teams for full implementation.