The management and procurement reforms of the mid-1990s removed the fear
of retribution that kept many government employees from taking risks or
suggesting new ways of managing programs.
Those changes also paved the way for the arrival of several federal
IT visionaries in the past five years. The latest to hit the scene is Brian
Burns, deputy chief information officer at the Department of Health and
In the past two years, Burns has developed what he calls Enterprise
Infrastructure Management — a rather bureaucratic term for an innovative
system that would break the old-style governmental stove-pipes that make
managing and developing federal information technology systems so difficult.
Using EIM, a CIO or other technology manager would tap IT strategies — such as knowledge management, security event management and software distribution — to feed data about departmentwide computer systems and security to a
central location — perhaps a CIO office.
That approach would give the department an unprecedented view of all
its networks and systems, making it easier to identify economies of scale
that could save money.
And armed with departmentwide IT data, the agency would be in a better
position to meet the requirements of Clinger-Cohen, as well as such White
House directives as turning paper forms into electronic documents and protecting
critical systems from cyberattacks.
A tall order? Sure. But that's missing the point. Even if his management
scheme doesn't work out, Burns has become part of an august group trying
to move an intractable government out of old, dysfunctional management strategies
and into new ways to improve the way government works.
At a time when agencies have a difficult time attracting and retaining
good IT talent, Burns — and others like him who believe government IT can
be improved through better practices — is a find. We can only hope that
others will be encouraged to step forward with new ideas.
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