Federal CIO pursues relentless efficiency via TechStat meetings

Vivek Kundra says the administration intends to leverage the power of technology to make the government run more efficiently

Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra today said he has started new accountability sessions with department officials to assess their information technology projects.

In these sessions, called TechStat meetings, Kundra intends to delve deep into departments’ IT projects to check on whether the projects are working as planned. He said he and other officials have already met with the Environmental Protection Agency’s CIO and other agency officials about an IT project that is $30 million over its budget and a year behind schedule. After the discussion, Kundra sent the EPA a detailed memo on what he wants the agency to do to get the project on course again, he said, adding that he expects to see the agency start working immediately.

Kundra said he intends to make the TechStat meetings “a very relentless pursuit of oversight.” He said he could possibly halt or terminate a project or even revise the plans for the project as a result of the meetings.

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These meetings are “data-driven, action-focused and results-oriented,” he said.

This is just the first of many meetings Kundra expects to hold with departments across the government. He said he plans to hold a minimum of three to four meetings a week with different agencies and expects that number to increase. Kundra said he’s also telling agency officials to hold similar TechStat meetings in their own departments.

The TechStat meetings are open to any CIO who may want to attend, Kundra said. He’s trying to connect agency officials so they can help each other as they go through some of the same rough patches with their investments, he said.

Emphasizing the transparency of government, Kundra said he will make his memos to agencies on their IT projects available to the public.

President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget proposal requests $20 million for the TechStat sessions.

In the overall budget, Kundra pointed out four themes in the technology agenda:

  • Managing IT investments effectively.
  • Leveraging technology and its power to create efficiencies for government.
  • Improving information security, such as identity management.
  • Increasing the openness of the government and participation with the public.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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Reader comments

Thu, Aug 26, 2010 John

"President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget proposal requests $20 million for the TechStat sessions." WOW - that's a lot of $$$ for meetings...(unless we're building the facility for the meetings and purchasing a large jet to fly folks there). Perhaps we could leverage online colaboration tools to acheive the same goal for 10's of thousands, not 10's of millions?

Wed, Aug 25, 2010 JEAtkinson (DBA)

The problem with pursuing efficiencies is that efficiency does not necessarily equate to effectiveness. For instance, one may relentlessly pursue efficiency using Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) methodologies, but, as noted by SecDef Gates when announcing the closure of the Business Transformation Agency (BTA), all the efforts in pursing efficiencies has not resulted in real savings or changes in operations. The point being that one may gather all the data one wants, but gathering data and working to make the data match the IT metrics used to define efficiency does not mean the same thing as measuring outputs and working to make the processes more effective. Which is why, as stated in numerous reports and articles generated by members of the Project Management Institute (PMI), most IT projects over the last 25 years have been failures (i.e., 96-97% of all IT projects over the last 25 years have either been over time, over budget, or both over time and over budget). Ultimately in our “relentless pursuit of efficiency”, we place too much emphasis on the output metrics (i.e., getting more out the door in less time with fewer resources, regardless of how good the product is) than on effectiveness (producing the best product with the best long-term return on investment). Or, in other words, using IT metrics, we place too much emphasis on the metrics and making the metrics match than on the quality of the products. If we want true savings and efficiency, then we need to get rid of the IT CIOs and ERP metrics, and start going with business intelligence officers (BIOs) and capacity analysis metrics.

Wed, Feb 10, 2010 Owen Ambur Snowy Silver Spring, MD

This is very good news. Hopefully, Congress will agree to fund it. It would be interesting to know how the evaulation criteria compare to Raines' Rules: http://xml.gov/documents/completed/iea/RainesRulesRevisited.ppt

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