Blog spotlight: Ed O’Hare’s Great Government through Technology

Edward O’Hare, assistant commissioner for the Integrated Technology Service at the General Services Administration, shares the experiences and insights he has gained writing the “Good Government through Technology” blog.

How do you see this blog fitting into your job at ITS?

I would like the "Great Government through Technology" blog to become an integral part of the communication strategy I’m spearheading within ITS. It’s an important step towards fulfilling the administration’s open government initiative and its goals of transparency. Blogging should not be an incidental or ancillary task; I would like it to become part of the very fabric of how I want to do business.

How does the blog fit into the overall communications strategy of ITS?

When I took this job as assistant commissioner almost a year ago, my strategy for ITS involved three key pillars – engage, communicate and execute. We are engaging with our customers and industry partners, communicating actively with our stakeholders, and executing our core objective of providing “great government through technology.” What I find now is that these concepts fit well with and support our Administrator’s goals of customer intimacy, operational excellence and innovation. My blog is one way of engaging our customers, industry partners, and the general public, and an important step to achieving customer intimacy.

What types of topics might it cover?

Great government is no small task. It takes big ideas and a spirit of innovation. But it also relies on intimate knowledge of my customers’ needs and the discipline to efficiently and effectively deliver our services to them. I wanted to create a space where I could share my thoughts about innovative IT solutions, solicit customers’ and stakeholders’ comments and highlight examples of great government through technology. For example, I recently blogged about GSA’s innovative partnership with the Defense Information Systems Agency as well our efforts to drive a customer-oriented approach across our business.

In the spirit of transparency and openness, I also wanted to let the American people know how we are working to serve their needs and to show that we are open to feedback as well. In the future, I could imagine writing about strategic sourcing initiatives, the Networx contract transition and the launch of new GSA contract vehicles, complex topics whose logic is not always clear to those outside of contracting circles. I think the American people deserve to get the message from the source.

Many people find blogging to be a bit of a time-suck. How do you plan to make time to blog?

I try to plan out in advance what to write about so it becomes part of my routine. Technology is such an incredibly fruitful area for discussion, there is no end to the issues I’d like to write about. So every week I sit down with my communications team to share my thoughts and narrow down the topics I want to address. I work with them to develop my ideas and ensure that they are aligned to the messages we want to promote as an organization.

What type of approval process will a blog post typically go through?

It’s not so much an approval process as it is an iterative, collaborative discussion. As you’ve pointed out in your own writing, online media is not like print – we, bloggers, have to be short, pithy, and straightforward or our readers will abandon us. When I come up with ideas, my communications team acts as a sounding-board. They do the research and fact-checking, and we discuss how the posts fit into the overall vision of ITS that I want to promote.

How did you get interested in blogging?

First of all, I’m an old dog who loves new tricks. Web 2.0 from the beginning has fascinated me, both for its ability to connect people all over the world and to create opportunities for the joining of new and unique perspectives. I love the idea of opening up the most important technology topics for discussion and inviting people to let us know what they think. What better way to get to know the needs of your customer!

Secondly, I’m a technology guy – part of my job is to provide access to technology products and services to my customers, which allow them to communicate more effectively. I would be remiss as an executive if my organization were not leading by example. GSA has taken a leadership role in Web 2.0 and readily accepted the Administration’s challenge to communicate with citizens and customers using new collaborative tools and social media. To remain relevant, ITS must get ahead of the technology curve and understand where innovation is possible.

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