SBA attributes agency ‘greening’ to better management, accountability

Not too long ago, the Small Business Administration’s IT projects were in disarray.

Some had veered so far off course that last year Stephen Galvan, then the agency’s CIO, considered canceling a few altogether.

But management practices instituted by Galvan, now SBA’s chief of staff and chief operating officer, and deputy CIO Jerry Williams started to take hold.

The turnaround helped SBA earn a green score for e-government on the most recent President’s Management Agenda scorecard.

“SBA had a culture in the CIO’s office that was not conducive to management practices,” said Williams, who last month became acting CIO. “We had to change the culture and change people to drive these management practices.”

Galvan and Williams drove the management practices throughout the organization by reorganizing the IT investment review process and clarifying the roles of the program and technical employees.

To get SBA employees on board, Galvan signed service-level agreements with each program office that clearly stipulated the functions and expectations of each IT and program employee.

The agreements identified who would manage initiatives, what role the CIO’s office would play and what performance metrics each project would be expected to meet.

“We created greater accountability so employees would perform at higher levels,” Williams said.

Galvan also established a Technology Investment Advisory Council. Williams and deputy chief financial officer Jennifer Main lead the council, whose other members are program managers from each SBA office.

The group reviews IT projects and makes investment recommendations to the agency’s Business Technology Investment Council, which OKs how SBA spends its IT budget.

“The advisory council looked at the project’s budget and its relevancy to meeting the agency’s mission,” Galvan said. “The [investment council] did not get to the level of detail that we needed to, and the advisory council brought the right players to the table.”

The advisory council has helped get projects back on track and assure they meet users’ demands, Galvan said.

“Fundamentally, it is about management and how you are changing the culture,” he said. “If you have a structure in place, the other things like project management and security come into place.”

SBA improved its project management and cybersecurity to earn a green score from OMB as a part of its management improvement program.

Williams said SBA requires every project manager to be certified by the Project Management Institute Inc. of Newtown Square, Pa.

By making project management part of the agency’s culture, Galvan said, developing project metrics and meeting goals became routine.

“We made sure the staff throughout the organization understood what we were doing with e-government,” Galvan said. “We posted the PMA scorecard in elevators and worked with the program office monthly so they were aware of the expectations.”

SBA also improved its cybersecurity by securing 97 percent of its systems, up from 74 percent last year, according to OMB.

“We have been engaging program and administrative units to make sure they understand IT security is everyone’s responsibility,” Williams said. “We also are in the process of designating an IT security person in each program or administrative office.”

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