Status check: 25-point IT plan making a difference

The Obama administration's 25-Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal IT Management , a legacy of former federal CIO Vivek Kundra, is changing the ways agencies manage their technology, according to three agency leaders who spoke at a recent breakfast event.

The plan includes reforms in areas such as program management skills, acquisition policies and coordination with the private sector.

To support its part of the modernization effort, the General Services Administration has launched a new, agile approach to how it plans out IT strategy, Bajinder Paul, deputy associate administrator of the agency’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies said at an AFCEA breakfast seminar on Sept. 22.

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Paul said most government agencies use five-year strategic plans, but the  challenge is to make plans relevant on a shorter time scale. So GSA launched a three-year strategic plan cycle that is updated annually, he said.  

GSA also initiated a tactical IT plan to support the three-year effort. The plan is business-centric and supported by the agency’s top leadership, Paul said. Every year, the agency will revisit the plan to make sure that it is on track. “That really helps us to evaluate the programs to make sure that we’re going in the right direction,” he said.

One of the key considerations of the 25-Point Plan is that chief information officers cannot do everything, said Lisa Schlosser, deputy administrator of the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of E-Government and Information Technology.

CIOs need to work closely with other officers responsible for areas such as finance and security. There is also a need to train agency IT workforces to be more aware of and supportive of business functions.

“We want our IT workforce to be thinking about how to use technology to better support the business,” she said.

This concept also applies to planning and implementing IT programs, such as consolidation. CIOs must coordinate with other C-level officers to determine an overall business plan for the program, she said. The goal of managing the effort is not just to shut down business centers, but to optimize resources, she said.

Another important element facing agencies is acquisition reform to help introduce innovative technology into government contracts, said Kenneth Rogers, director of the State Department’s IT Strategic Planning Office.

During his previous tenure at the Homeland Security Department, Rogers said. DHS’ science and technology office hosted events where companies could demonstrate new and innovative technologies to the department, an interaction that other federal agencies could emulate.

“We’ve got to be thinking about how we bring innovation into government to better support our customers,” he said.

State is considering fixed-price performance contracts that emphasize solid program management skills. This is a major change from how the department used to manage programs, Rogers said. The goal now is to turn IT technical personnel into effective managers.

Federal agencies are also using aspects of the 25-point plan to strengthen areas such as program management. GSA is working to reduce risks associated with program management by breaking programs into six-month increments. These shorter time scales allow managers and the agency to have a better handle on the delivery of products, Paul said.

State uses metrics to measure the effectiveness of its policies and overall program management efforts, Rogers said. The department also has incentives in place to encourage and maintain a cadre to trained program managers. He added that the department has launched a mentorship program to share program management experience and expertise across the organization.

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