Agency attitude affects modernization efforts’ success

To advance modernization in federal departments, the officials leading the effort must be the “tick on the tail of the dog” until agency leaders take it seriously, according to a panel of government officials who spoke today in Bethesda, Md.

Four panelists at an AFCEA International breakfast agreed that modernization must be recognized and supported by departments’ executives. The chief information officer in particular must be involved in the effort, the panelists agreed.

“CIOs do need a seat at the table,” said Edward Meagher, the Veterans Affairs Department's chief technology officer. CIOs must also be recognized as equal to the other agency executive officers, he added. Until that happens, he said they must continue to “annoy” the officers.

Tish Tucker, director of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Program Management Office, said a department’s culture and its view of modernizing its business systems play a large role in determining the success of the effort.

Strong leadership, clear objectives and the project's value, along with accountability will make modernization an accomplishment, added Mark Krzysko, the recently named assistant deputy undersecretary of Defense for strategic sourcing and acquisition processes.

However, the crux of the issue is gathering a “solid understanding of what we want to build," said Richard Spires, associate CIO for Business Systems Modernization at the Internal Revenue Service.

Industry’s role in the process is another issue with which agencies grapple. The panelists agreed that agencies should involve contractors in the process both with the agency and in collaboration with other participating companies. Industry, however, should be a full participant with an understanding of the needs of the agency or department.

“I’m your customer. Come to me with solutions,” said Lisa Schlosser, CIO at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, who moderated the panel.

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