Changing course

Change comes slowly in government, especially if it requires the bureaucratic culture to alter the way it has done business. So, proponents of the information technology reforms and initiatives that the Bush administration has been pushing for the past two years should take pride in the fact that a survey by Federal Computer Week shows federal IT managers have largely bought into the changes. But the survey also indicates that the reforms may have difficulty becoming a reality.

FCW surveyed 449 federal IT managers to determine if they have begun to institute the IT reforms initiated by Mark Forman, former administrator of e-government and IT at the Office of Management and Budget, who left government work in August. The survey asked IT managers' opinions on a number of reforms, including enterprise architectures, training, working with colleagues governmentwide, security and business cases. Many of these reforms established their roots in the Clinton administration.

On the surface, the findings were positive. A significant portion of the respondents said they were trying to institute the reforms. But dig deeper and the findings indicate they do not have the means to do so. For example, 62 percent said they do not have the time to write the cases. As for working cross-government to consolidate systems, one in three IT managers said they do not try to seek out similar systems, do not have the time to or do not consider it a top priority.

What OMB officials and others can take away form the survey is that they do not have to spend valuable time selling IT managers on the reforms' merits. But they do need to find the funds, time and resources to develop IT tools and make them a reality. For example, a database of all IT systems in government would help managers find similar systems. Without one, where does an overworked manager start looking? Such an effort may make the reforms part of everyday government IT operations and not another reform effort that dies.

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