IT pros break down cultural challenges

Managing cultural change remains one of the greatest challenges to integrating information technology systems in government agencies, according to Missouri Chief Information Officer Gerry Wethington.

Wethington, one member of a panel of procurement professionals who spoke this week in Washington, D.C., said a culture of "That's how we've always done it" has always been a great impediment to change.

"We're all challenged with culture change, and sometimes culture shock," he said.

Often, agency managers will say they have to do something a certain way because of a statute, a court ruling or an agency policy, Wethington said.

"About 65 percent of the time, it doesn't [really] fall into one of those categories," Wethington said. "It falls into a fourth category — called folklore."

Overcoming inertia can be very difficult, officials said.

"Nothing is more daunting that trying to get people to think beyond how they've always done things," said Tad Anderson, government-to-business portfolio manager at the Office of Management and Budget.

The Dutko Group, a lobbying firm that is part of Dutko Group Companies, sponsored the forum which was the first of a planned series of GovMarkets events, said Brian Sailer, a Dutko vice president.

Government transformation is important to a government that wants to respond to its citizens, Wethington said. A typical government manager, like other Americans, takes advantage of conveniences like Internet shopping and automated teller machines, he said.

"Then we go back to work, and we make [citizens] come to our buildings," Wethington said. "We make them come when we're there. We make them stand in our lines. And we ask them for information we've already got 14 copies of."

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