Feds see IT as cost, not opportunity

Federal executives have a laundry list of priorities, but IT doesn’t seem to be one of them for many.

MeriTalk’s 2012 “The Customer is Always Right” study looked at how federal executives view and leverage IT. The findings showed a little more than half of the surveyed federal executives said their top priorities include streamlining business processes. Nearly 40 percent cited cutting waste as their most important mission, and 32 percent said increasing accountability placed first on their to-do list.

The survey was of 279 non-IT executives, giving an indication of their view of IT.

Fewer than half of the federal executives think of IT as an opportunity versus a cost. Just 56 percent said IT helps support their daily operations; and less than one-fourth said IT lends them a hand in providing analytics to support business decisions, saving money and increasing efficiency, or improving constituent processes or services.

Despite multiple IT programs in progress – from the "shared-first" policy to the Digital Government Strategy -- federal managers don’t know if IT initiatives will drive enhanced performance outcomes. Fifty-two percent believe new models to support teleworkers or mobility will result in better performance outcomes, while 42 percent said cloud computing will do the same.

To better support their agency missions, federal executives said they look to new technologies, revamped IT systems and better tools for mobile workers. Enhanced end-user support and training also provide the IT department an opportunity to better support a mission.

Nearly all (95 percent) of federal executives agree their agency could see substantial savings with IT modernization. Each agency could slash $11 billion or 14 percent of the fiscal year 2013 federal IT budget of nearly $80 billion. Federal IT managers said with cloud alone, the government could save $12 billion annually, according to an April 2012 report by MeriTalk.

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

The 2015 Federal 100

Meet 100 women and men who are doing great things in federal IT.


  • Shutterstock image (by venimo): e-learning concept image, digital content and online webinar icons.

    Can MOOCs make the grade for federal training?

    Massive open online courses can offer specialized IT instruction on a flexible schedule and on the cheap. That may not always mesh with government's preference for structure and certification, however.

  • Shutterstock image (by edel): graduation cap and diploma.

    Cybersecurity: 6 schools with the right stuff

    The federal government craves more cybersecurity professionals. These six schools are helping meet that demand.

  • Rick Holgate

    Holgate to depart ATF

    Former ACT president will take a job with Gartner, follow his spouse to Vienna, Austria.

  • Are VA techies slacking off on Yammer?

    A new IG report cites security and productivity concerns associated with employees' use of the popular online collaboration tool.

  • Shutterstock image: digital fingerprint, cyber crime.

    Exclusive: The OPM breach details you haven't seen

    An official timeline of the Office of Personnel Management breach obtained by FCW pinpoints the hackers’ calibrated extraction of data, and the government's step-by-step response.

  • Stephen Warren

    Deputy CIO Warren exits VA

    The onetime acting CIO at Veterans Affairs will be taking over CIO duties at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

  • Shutterstock image: monitoring factors of healthcare.

    DOD awards massive health records contract

    Leidos, Accenture and Cerner pull off an unexpected win of the multi-billion-dollar Defense Healthcare Management System Modernization contract, beating out the presumptive health-records leader.

  • Sweating the OPM data breach -- Illustration by Dragutin Cvijanovic

    Sweating the stolen data

    Millions of background-check records were compromised, OPM now says. Here's the jaw-dropping range of personal data that was exposed.

  • FCW magazine

    Let's talk about Alliant 2

    The General Services Administration is going to great lengths to gather feedback on its IT services GWAC. Will it make for a better acquisition vehicle?

Reader comments

Thu, Aug 2, 2012

It is one thing to talk about "streamlining" (as many organizations do), but quite another to actually implement improvements to reduce waste and inefficiencies. The executives should consider ways that IT can play a role in improving their business processes. They are related issues, as one is a process tool and the other an approach to reducing costs within an organization.

Wed, Aug 1, 2012

Federal executives need to think of their agencies and departments as technology organizations that provide services to citizens, their employees, other government agencies. Fundamentally, the most efficient enabler of streamlining business processes, cutting waste, and increasing accountability is modernizing IT. Most of their business processes revolve around linear industry thinking and the corresponding costly legacy IT systems and tools that create such huge operation and maintenance annual costs thwarting investments in true innovation. When federal executives and IT managers say they have to leverage their existing systems and infrastructure because of how much money they have already spent on them, they are committed a classic logic fallacy, plus they are not using sound economic due diligence for decision making. In terms of the article, two distinct groups are mentioned, Federal Executives and Federal IT managers, each with different findings from different surveys. It is readily apparent that they need to bridge the gap between them in terms of perspective, and more importantly, reality. In the future, federal executives and federal IT managers should be more synonymous if their organizations are to more forward faster in the digital mobile age to keep up with increasing demands in an era of constrained and declining budgets.

Tue, Jul 31, 2012 SG

Stop spending of taxpayer's money by KPMG on HUD project. Time to investigate the work being done by KPMG on HUD IT transformation project

Tue, Jul 31, 2012 Fed Up Fed

Jim, I read it as a continuation of the age-old problem of the people in power being relatively clueless about IT and what it does/can do for them. The first part of the article reflects this. The last part triggers their lizard brain in reaction to buzz words they've been spoon fed through meetings or media.

Tue, Jul 31, 2012 Arty

As an IT professional, I always view it as a tool to solve problems. Yet, even in a research center, I found the CIO uninterested in doing anything but routine maintenance of existing systems and no thought to advanced technology, upgrades, or potential support to research and/or new projects. This attitude created a very negative sense in the minds of other program managers. The labs contained small centers of IT competence with no unified expertise toward larger efforts. In the final analysis, viewing IT as a cost rather than as a tool to solve problems limits and restricts agency effectiveness, and guarentees the agency will do a poorer job. One wonders if this attitude applied to other advanced technology, added to the issue with IT, could end up making these agencies completely ineffective.

Show All Comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above