Schlosser takes command at HUD

Since becoming CIO, she has made herself a persuasive member of the executive team

Lisa Schlosser opens minds and wallets in Washington, D.C., by persuading senior federal officials that information technology can improve the business of government.

Schlosser, chief information officer at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said the role of federal CIOs is evolving. As IT becomes central to performing mission-critical operations, senior IT managers must explain how technology can help business and government executives achieve their objectives, she said. She foresees that CIOs will focus more on crafting business strategies for their agencies rather than installing and supporting technology.

“You really have to make technology fit the business problem,” Schlosser said. “You look at the business problem first.”

Schlosser’s priority is to modernize the department’s IT infrastructure and business systems to provide better service to citizens.

In the year since she took HUD’s top IT position, Schlosser has become a pivotal member of the executive staff, advising department chiefs on how IT modernization can create an infrastructure for business improvements.

She is leading efforts to eliminate redundant IT systems by using the Treasury Department’s Human Resource Center of Excellence. She is helping save money and improve information sharing by connecting existing databases instead of creating new ones.

Her approach appears to be working. Under Schlosser, HUD earned a green score card rating in fiscal 2005 for reducing improper payments. On the next score card, Schlosser expects HUD to get green scores across the board.

In one year, Schlosser succeeded in getting all of HUD’s major information systems certified and accredited under the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002. When she arrived, only 1 percent had been certified and accredited. Schlosser arrived with a good reputation for IT security. As chief IT security officer at the Transportation Department, she raised the department’s FISMA grade from an F in fiscal 2002 to an A-minus in fiscal 2004.

Schlosser credits her experience in the military — six years on active-duty and eight years as an officer in the Army Reserve — with building her leadership skills. She applies the same principles no matter where she works: Build a strong, highly skilled leadership team. Use internal and external resources to learn how the organization operates at the grass-roots level. Develop a vision of desired outcomes and plans to guide the work. Have the integrity to follow through.

Some people debate whether federal CIOs have enough power to be effective, but Schlosser said she is fortunate to have sufficient authority. She reports directly to Roy Bernardi, HUD’s deputy secretary.

Schlosser gives the people who work for her the responsibility to succeed or fail on their own, said Harold Youra, president of Alliance Solutions. Her hard-working, candid manner inspires people who work with her to do their best, he said.

“Lisa is a very straight-up manager,” one of the bright stars in the federal government, Youra said. “She’s not afraid to make a decision. She’s definitely in command, but she takes people’s input.”

Schlosser’s job is becoming easier as more decision-makers have daily experience using technology. She remembers that several years ago CIOs had to explain the value of technology to federal program executives. New assistant secretaries at HUD now call her to ask how they can use technology to achieve their program goals.

Other attitudes toward technology are changing, too. Departments are outsourcing more of their computer operations to other agencies that already have good systems in place, Schlosser said. Outsourcing allows agencies to concentrate on their own core business systems and strategies, she said.

Schlosser predicts that in the next 10 to 20 years, CIOs will become more accountable, better understand the value of security and field more reliable systems than their predecessors. That is because people in their early to mid-20s — she calls them millennials — embrace technological innovation and expect to gain access to data as easily and reliably as flipping on a light switch.

“The general expectations will make tech more pervasive in our day-to-day business operations,” Schlosser said. More teleworkers will demand faster broadband networks to provide integrated video, voice and data to wireless handheld devices.

Schlosser expects to be a part of it all. “It’s my job to be the genie in the bottle and figure it out,” she said.

The Lisa Schlosser File

Current Position: Chief information officer at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Career accomplishments: Schlosser has held a variety of information technology positions in the past 19 years. She was associate CIO of IT investment management and associate CIO of IT security at the Transportation Department before joining HUD in February 2005. Before that, she held senior IT security and business-development positions at Global Integrity, Ernst and Young and Troy Systems. She started her security career by serving six years as an Army intelligence officer.

Education: She holds a master’s degree in administration from Central Michigan University and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Family: She is single and has a dog.

Heroes: Her heroes are Gens. George Patton and Douglas MacArthur. As generals, they managed every aspect of their organizations, negotiated ends to conflicts and led thousands of soldiers who gave up their lives for their country. “I can’t think of any better leadership example than that,” she said.

Interesting fact: Schlosser loves football and is a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan. She likes the competitive challenge of sports and cybersecurity. “It’s the thrill of the chase,” she said. “It’s staying one step ahead of the bad guys.”

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