White House forum examines IT, government modernization

Business leaders met with government officials to share best practices on how to be more efficient

Federal agencies can learn from businesses as governments sets out to modernize how they operate, according to business leaders who participated in a White House forum with government leaders.

In one breakout session with Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Scott Gould, several business leaders said government processes need to change. Although technology can help enable that change, it cannot be the sole way government agencies become more efficient, said Andrea Jung, chairman and chief executive officer of Avon.

Transformation goals should not be left solely for chief information officers and their information technology staffs, Jung said at the Jan. 14 event.

In Gould’s breakout sessions, the business leaders said processes should be redesigned starting with the end customer and working backward. For example, NASA should work with astronauts early on in designing spacecraft, rather than waiting to bring them at the end when a vehicle is nearly complete.

“So you have to re-engineer the process and really go to the customer end before you start applying technology,” Jung said.

President Barack Obama spoke during the opening of the forum even though he had pressing meetings related to the earthquake in Haiti. Taking time to speak at the event demonstrates how important Obama thinks modernizing government is, Gould said.

“I want us to ask ourselves every day, how are we using technology to make a real difference in people’s lives,” Obama said. “Improving the technology our government uses isn’t about having the fanciest bells and whistles on our Web sites — it’s about how we use the American people’s hard-earned tax dollars to make government work better for them.”

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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