Employee buy-in key to infrastructure change, experts say

Managing change — not implementing technology — is often the biggest hurdle when an agency transitions from existing systems to a new information technology infrastructure, Internal Revenue Service officials said April 1.

“Instilling change is 80 percent of it,” said Theresa Beverly, infrastructure transition program manager at IRS. “People are a very big part of it. Basically, they’ve been used to doing work [one way] and it’s been working for them. Now you want [to change it] and make it better, but they say, 'Who asked? It’s working for me.' ”

Modernized processes are a lot different from legacy processes, said Harry Lee, director of infrastructure, architecture and engineering at IRS. “We have a lot of cultural difference when we’re trying to transition from one mode of operation to another. So I think technology is really the easier piece,” he said. 

Lee and Beverly spoke April 1 at a panel discussion on lessons learned from agency infrastructure transitions at the FOSE 2008 conference and expo in Washington, hosted by Federal Computer Week's parent company, 1105 Government Information Group.

John Schwenker, senior enterprise architect at Hewlett-Packard, talking about HP’s recent infrastructure overhaul, agreed with Lee and Beverly. “It’s people, process and technology,” he said. “With HP’s transformation, the people piece is like 50 percent. It’s bigger than any of the others.”

Beverly said that transition management programs demand “a clear communications framework” to make sure stakeholders in the transition are on the same page. “Communication is the key,” she said. “If you don’t communicate and you don’t have the same message going out, and everybody doesn’t buy in, then it’s not going to be a successful transition.”

The Housing and Urban Development Department’s move to a consolidated IT infrastructure is an example of a successful transition, said Tim Young, deputy director for e-government and IT at the Office of Management and Budget, who moderated the panel.

HUD’s infrastructure transition is “a model that many agencies have been following, not only for significant best practices — what worked well — but what was very challenging,” he said.

To achieve a vision of a “real-time infrastructure” that meets business needs, HUD officials decided to outsource their IT infrastructure, said Michael Milazzo, acting deputy chief information officer at HUD. “The goal was to create value, not only reduce costs,” he said.

In January 2005, HUD awarded contracts to EDS and Lockheed Martin to provide and and run its IT infrastructure. “A huge part of what we do is manage these contracts,” he said. “If there are issues with the infrastructure, [the contractors] work it out as part of their contract.”

An immediate benefit was a single, national help desk. “It’s a godsend,” Milazzo said. “We have 90 field offices. Every office had at least one help desk.”

Overall, HUD has seen a 20 percent savings in infrastructure costs since outsourcing its IT operations, he said.


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