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3 steps for federal CIOs toward greater IT success

It’s no secret the federal government has squandered hundreds of billions of dollars on failed IT projects over the past decade, prompting former U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra in 2010 to come up with a plan to address what he called “systemic problems” and reform federal IT management.

Two years later and with a new federal CIO Steven VanRoekel at the helm, several milestones in Kundra’s 25-point plan have been met, including directives known as “the firsts.” Those “firsts” – cloud first, shared first and future first – have now provided inspiration to new guidelines for federal CIOs as outlined by Evan McDonnell, vice president of solutions at Appian, in his new white paper “Adapting to the New Information Technology Directives: A Guide for Federal Government CIOs.”

Here are some of McDonnell's principles for better federal IT management:

Implement “business-ready” technology:
Commercial off-the-shelf applications present a problem when federal CIOs need to make modifications. McDonnell suggests considering business process management platforms that give CIOs the opportunity to tailor applications to their unique needs – for less money and less time.
“As federal CIOs adopt business-ready technology like BPM, business process stakeholders will become less dependent on IT to design and configure processes to create new applications,” McDonnell predicts.

Move to one platform:
Agencies have traditionally bought software from different vendors to get the best application for each need, resulting in multiple systems that don’t always communicate or mesh well with each other. However, if CIOs were to use a single business process management software, they would eliminate the headache of having users log in from various software packages. “Even greater economies of scale are possible if federal CIOs share the core of their applications with other agencies,” McDonnell writes. “Such ‘frameworks’ can be tailored to fit each agency’s specific mission saving substantial development costs.”

Shift to agile:
Agile development has lately emerged as a go-to method to handle IT projects rather than the traditional “waterfall” approach. Not only is the latter approach slow; it relies on procurement officers to detail all known requirements and predict future requirements – an impossible task because users often don’t know what they want until they’ve tried a new technology, McDonnell points out. “As long as the government focuses on COTS products, this problem can never go away,” he writes. “It could go away if the government moved back to custom development with a shift to ‘agile‘ development approaches where applications are built in ‘sprints’ with frequent user feedback.”


McDonnell had several other interesting things to say. You can read the full report here.

Posted by Camille Tuutti on May 16, 2012 at 12:19 PM


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Reader comments

Thu, May 17, 2012

Step Zero: Don't listen to those worthless old workers you have that have been keeping your Agency's IT working for the last 30 years.

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