Workforce, budget dominate talk of IT solutions

Workforce concerns continue to trouble CIOs, but just how serious a concern it is depends on who you ask.

Two panelists at the Management of Change conference touched on the workforce with different perspectives during a discussion on May 16.

Melody Mayberry-Stewart, former CIO for New York, said the feared wave of retirements still looms. Many state IT professionals will be able to retire within a few years, and even if not all of them do, it will drain talent.

And IT experts in the generation just now entering the workforce, "They're not looking to come work for the government for 10, 15 or 25 years," she said. "They're going to be there for a short time."

But Richard Spires, CIO of the Homeland Security department, said that so far predicted disasters as experienced workers leave the workforce have not materialized.

"It tends be a bit of a sky-is-falling discussion about this," he said. "I'm not trying to say it's easy [to find and hire needed new workers] but by God we're doing it."

Many of the employees that could retire are skilled in fading programming languages such as COBOL; but that opens the challenge of migrating systems to current technologies fast enough to beat the retirement wave, panelists said.

"I don't think we need to be in the skills development business we were before, because the technology has a lot of that built into it," mayberry-Stewart said.

The panel, titled "Partners for Success: Delivering IT Solutions" also touched on the Obama administration's 25-point IT management plan and its cloud-first policy.

Spires said DHS has just issued a request for proposals to move many of the agency's public-facing websites to the cloud. "As the security issues get worked out, I think you're going to see a more aggressive shift by many agencies," he said.

Mary Davie, assistant commissioner of the Office of Integrated Technology Services in the Federal Acqusition Service within the General Services Administration, said agencies are getting better at collaborating to identify and meet needs.

"Agencies are increasingly starting to work together to identify common needs," she said. In the agency's strategic sourcing initiative, for example, "We have seen in the past year and a half a change in committment from agencies," she said. "For the past few years, that had been missing."

Industry is faced with a government losing its buying power due to budget cuts, but government will continue to buy technology, said Simon Szykman, CIO at the Commerce Department and moderator of the panel.

What that means for vendors is, "People have to be aggressive on pricing," he said, urging vendors in the audience to do all they can to offer government the best prices possible.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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