Deputy CTO promotes innovation paths that can be replicated

Data should be embedded in products, services

Advancing innovation in government should be turned into a process that can be replicated and scaled to fit different agencies to be most effective, Chris Vein, the federal deputy CTO for government innovation, said on May 11.

Vein, a former CIO for the city of San Francisco who joined the White House in March, spoke at the FedScoop conference on citizen engagement and open government.

With a mandate to foster more innovative technologies at federal agencies, Vein said his job also has transparency goals. “It is about innovation, and open government is a piece of the agenda,” he said.

One area is improving customer services under President Barack Obama’s recent executive order, he said.

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“I am working on a model to take what is happening at the Office of Personnel Management, Transportation Department and Commerce Department, and scaling it for what I call the ‘government vertical,’ ” the linked array of federal, state and local government agencies, Vein said.

From a customer service point of view, it makes sense to look at federal, state and local governments together because people don't care which agency delivers a service, such as a driver’s license, he added.

Vein also said he has been inspired by Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra, whom he called “an amazing visionary” who generates many ideas.

“I am focusing on taking the ideas and turning them into repeatable models,” Vein said. “We need to create the capacity to change, we need to change how we approach problem solving, with lean start-ups and design thinking, and we need to reduce barriers to change,” he added.

One strategy for innovation is to promote the market for data by publishing government data, encouraging free use and liquidity of data and building communities that advance the uses of it, Vein said.

"The data is not useful until it has value and is embedded in products and services,” Vein said.

He mentioned the Health and Human Services Department’s community data program as an example of a pathway to innovation that can be replicated in other agencies. In the program, application developers are encouraged to create new ways to use and showcase health data.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Thu, May 12, 2011

Chris Vein is a Leader for Proclaiming what to some is obvious and yet to the Bureaucratic Managers (the Non Leader Managers which out number the Leaders) entrenched across Government fear most. Their Fear is unfounded and yet is as severe as any Cancer that is overtaken a single Human in their last days of life. A great Leader who sponsored many of our Teams Innovations Efforts once Agreed with me, that if we did no more Innovation at the National Level but found a quicker way to adopt best practices, we would close all of our Agency Budget Shortfalls and Increase Our Support of our Citizen Customers and return money to the Taxpayer. Every Agency seems to have the Need in their Management Teams Ego to Develop their own unique approach to every conceivable challenge that is presented. Many Challenges are simple in their Nature and the solution is already a best practice in another agency like the PTO's Flexible Workplace Practice. Every Agency has some Great Contribution that it can share with the rest of the Federal Government. This is a time in America that we should call on the Hero's in Every Federal Agency to stand up and deliver as part of the overall economic recovery of America. Group Think is still a prevalent issue, Best Practices are self evident and the Transparent Practices embracing Full Cost and Performance management will continue to show a way forward if the long view is analyzed and understood. The PTO has reduced their entire Infrastructure Fixed Cost and Increased their Employees Quality of Life and has measurable performance to give their managers the information necessary to continue to manage their operations and budget to expand their workforce to address their every growing backlog. Beyond that, it is still up to Congress to do their part to fund agencies who have achieved a High Performance in their Service to their Customers or to provide adequate ability to charge Fees to Fund their operations. The backlog of the PTO is growing and the innovation that comes from the private sector is what drives small businesses to grow and prosper, to hire and expand. Like Best Practices Across Federal Government, the Private Sector too has best Practices. The Private Sector closes the doors of the worst in the Private Sector due to lack of performance. The Companies who adapt and adopt best practices grow. A simple yet challenging concept for the weak of heart. I hope that the number one best practice that grows in the next year is the best practice of Hero's to stand up and take the steps necessary to do the hard work which is usually tedious and is mostly rewarded only in ones on heart and the heart of those that true leaders empower to do Great Work versus the agency one works for.

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