Debrief from The White House Forum on IT Management Reform

December 10, 2010
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If you are an enterprise technologist in or out of the Federal Government, please take time to watch the entire presentation below.  It captures the entirety of the presentations and majority of the conversations at the White House Forum on Information Technology Management Reform.

I recommend you watch the entire presentation for several reasons. If you are a student of IT and its governance, you will see what a good strategy looks like. If you are a student of federal policy, you will gain insights into what may be some of the most important shifts underway in the federal space today. If you are an integrator or technology vendor who served federal users you will learn a bit more about how your customer will be shifting in the future and how you can better position to help. And if you are an enterprise technologist you will learn of some very important things under way that will make your life easier and more productive.

 

Let me give you some of my perspectives as a former enterprise CTO and current student of CTO issues:

  • There is a plan, and it is a good one. But there is something here more important than a plan. There is leadership.  And it is not just the leadership of one or two folks.  There is a strong team of technology leaders committed to making positive, enduring change.
  • But, like I mentioned, there is a plan.  And it is a plan that has been well staffed/coordinated and thought through.  The plan has 25 objectives, organized into six categories.  They are short and well written so you really must read them (see: 25-Point-Implementation-Plan-to-Reform-Federal IT).  But I’ll hit one some that excite me the most below.
  • There is a serious, focused, driven effort to find the right balance between too many data centers and not enough data centers.  Expect at least 800 federal data centers to be consolidated by 2015.  For Federal users that need data center capabilities, expect to see an online market/reservation system that lets users find available data centers space.
  • “Cloud First” is a policy. To help move in that direction, agencies are being tasked with finding programs and services to move to cloud.  The agency CIOs will identify three “must move” services each right away (in under 90 days) and fully migrate at least one in the next 12 months and the remaining two in 18 months.
  • The GSA and the Federal CIO are working on tasks to stand-p contract vehicles for commodity services and for sharing services.
  • The federal government will treat program management like a discipline!  This is great, welcome news. Formal IT program management career paths will be established.
  • The federal government is launching a technology fellows program!  The Federal CIO will partner directly with universities to tap into the talent pool and build a more sustainable pipeline of talent.  The tech fellows program aims to help cut through bureaucratic barriers associated with public service.
  • Many objectives have to do with enhancing the ability of the government to coordinate and collaborate internally, and many deal with enhancing the ability to coordinate and collaborate with industry. A special “myth-busting” effort seeks to help reduce some of the myths that run rampant in the federal space regarding what can and cannot be done.
  • Special focus is being placed on reducing barriers to entry for small innovative technology companies. I know so many firms that will welcome this effort.

Since this forum was designed to be a two-way interaction, following the presentation there was a question and answer period.  I asked a couple quick ones.  I wondered if I am too old for the technology fellows program! That is going to be an awesome activity and although I imagine I’m in the wrong stage of my career for this to be in my destiny, I look forward to watching this program kick off.  I followed that comment with a more serious question about why telecommunications was not mentioned in the briefing and implementation plan, since many of us regard the current way the federal government procures telecom to be right out of the industrial age.  The answer was right on target.  Telecom is most definitely part of IT and will also be reformed. I also asked about cyber security and the needs for enhancement there.  The answer to that one was also right on the mark.  Cyber security is baked into all these goals, and Vivek gave several key examples of how progress is being made there.  It is widely known that the many activities of the federal leadership team are well coordinated at that includes the cyber security efforts of the White House policy coordinator for cybersecurity (Howard Schmidt) and the Federal CIO.

As a former enterprise CTO and a current student of enterprise IT I view the Federal CIOs plan as one we should all now form up on. My sense is that if anyone anywhere sees issues during execution of this plan the leadership team of the Federal CIO will be ready to address them.

I should also mention that if you are looking for a summary of the overall event, a great one was written by Alex Howard at: White House proposes sweeping federal IT reforms (follow Alex on Twitter at http://twitter.com/digiphile )