HHS' enterprising game plan

New leadership at the Department of Health and Human Services, the need to secure systems and the reality of tight budgets are breathing new life into plans to create enterprise systems that can work across the department.

HHS traditionally has had a distributed culture, but Brian Burns, HHS deputy chief information officer, said the concerns about security and budgets are driving organizations toward centralized systems. A few HHS organizations are still reluctant to accept the concept of enterprise systems, he said, but most of the department has come around.

"In order for us to continue to supply equal or better service with equal or even less staff, we have to automate and consolidate," Burns said recently, following a presentation at Federal Sources Inc.'s annual Outlook conference.

HHS leadership, including Secretary Tommy Thompson, has made the issue more of a priority. "The new secretary is very interested in saving money in IT," Burns said. That interest is reflected in creating enterprise systems instead of relying on individual, parochial systems.

Security is also spurring more enterprise developments, Burns said. HHS has about 3,100 individual servers and 2,000 Web sites. "We need to do some consolidation there and streamline that approach," he said.

HHS has tried to use successful pilots to generate support for enterprise systems. HHS let operating divisions decide their critical areas, develop a system and let the functionality and success of those systems attract users, Burns said.

"Nobody is going to believe when you say that you have a better mousetrap. If they see you're doing it, then they are more likely to buy in," he said.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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