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How to Start a Burden Reduction Initiative

Are you part of an Agency or Office looking to create your own burden reduction initiative? DHS has some tips, tricks, and lessons learned to share.

  1. Define the Need
  2. Conduct Discovery and Iterate
  3. Define Levels of Training and Support
    • Create and provide templates, resources, initial and ongoing support as necessary
  4. Measure Progress Toward the Goal

1. Define the Need

Decades before Customer Experience made the national stage, the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) charged Agencies to actively reduce burden on the public. Originally the idea was to reduce the amount of paper used in service of saving the public money, then interpretations shifted in the digital world to collecting less information and imposing less of a time/frustration tax on the public.

DHS saw a need for culture change within the Agency at large, to shift from a paper-based mindset to more of a customer-centric focus. The Burden Reduction Initiative is effectively a SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based) goal intended to drive a shift in the way DHS works and thinks about the way we deliver services to the public. Burden hours are a metric, not a goal. The goal is to improve customer experience to further the goal of rebuilding trust in government.

2. Conduct Discovery and Iterate

In March of 2021, DHS OCIO started gathering feedback and iterating on what would become the DHS Paperwork Reduction Act Burden Reduction Initiative. As DHS continued to iterate and draft out plans and memo language for the initiative, the Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government was signed on December 13, 2021. A few short months later, DHS’s CIO signed the memorandum on the Burden Reduction Initiative on March 22, 2022.

The Paperwork Reduction Act Burden Reduction Initiative charged the Component Agency and Office Heads to build more equitable customer experiences in furtherance of the CX EO. DHS overall imposes an estimated 190 million hours of burden on the public. The initiative outlines nine areas of consideration and best practices to improve customer experiences, such as enabling customers to use electronic signatures, optimizing online forms, conducting usability testing and using plain language. Each Agency and Office were assigned a target metric of 10% of their current burden hours, or what comes out to 20 million hours of reduced burden across DHS. The initiative allowed the Component Agencies and Offices to determine the best way to improve their customer’s experience and choose their own commitments. It also allowed the Agencies and Offices to leverage a current law (the PRA) to operationalize their Customer Experience strategies.

3. Define Level of Training and Support

After the initiative went live in March of 2022, DHS OCIO hosted Q&A sessions and trainings for Agency/Office PRA liaisons. DHS OCIO provided Strategic Action Plan templates, and hosted one on one support sessions for feedback, questions and answers. CX @ DHS provided usability testing training, individualized support sessions, including consults on how to test collections for different Agencies/Offices, and testing toolkits.

Since the Component Agencies/Offices would be driving the efforts and owning the process, it was important that they own their plans. While Agencies/Offices were required to include the 9 methods/best practices designated in the memo, each Component determined how they could best meet their commitments and targeted reduction hours. They created Strategic Action Plans identifying which collections to apply selected methods or best practices from the memo to reach their target hours. The plans were submitted July 1, DHS OCIO provided feedback and suggestions, and the plans were finalized mid-August. DHS OCIO continues to provide weekly support sessions, trainings, and offers ad-hoc tailored support through the May 30 deadline.

4. Measure Progress Toward the Goal

While Burden Reduction itself ongoing, the Burden Reduction Initiative deadline is May 30, 2023. The 20 million hours of burden reduction are a metric that illustrate progress toward the goal of building more efficient, equitable and accessible customer experiences. We have a progress tracker that we share in the weekly support meetings, and to select groups on occasion. This tracker contains clear illustrations of our milestones, progress toward our target hours at the Agency /Component Agency/Office level, and provides context to these metrics. One thing we’re particularly proud of is how quickly Agencies/Offices have been able to improve experiences for customers. Here is an example of the context to one Component Agency’s metrics:

The Customers Behind the Numbers

ICE was able to improve the Student and Exchange Visitors experience by reducing the completion time of the Fee Remittance Form for certain F, J, and M Nonimmigrants to five minutes.

They did this by pre-filling fields, sharing data between related collections, building responsive, mobile-friendly experiences, and facilitating electronic information sharing/automatic fee transfers.

The Burden Reduction Initiative is still in progress. As we progress further toward our deadline, we plan to share progress and lessons learned so that other Agencies may develop their own Burden Reduction Initiatives.

For more information, please contact CX@hq.dhs.gov

Last Updated: 06/13/2024
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