VanRoekel: Agency culture to blame for resistance to tech adoption

Federal agencies are at wildly different levels of maturity in adopting technology, largely because of leadership, but more are coming around to view it as a strategic IT asset, said U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel.

“It’s not a lack for appreciation of technology; it’s probably more of a cultural underpinning in the history of the agency and how it was established and grew up,” said VanRoekel, who spoke at a technology forum hosted May 11 in Fairfax, Va., by Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). Executives from Microsoft, Google and the Professional Services Council also participated in the discussion on top issues affecting government.

To get agencies to reach that comfort level with technology, VanRoekel said he had looked to the private sector and established investment review boards as a pilot program. The idea is to bring together senior leaders within the agency to discuss investment decisions around technology implementations.

The other approach is to bring vendor management into the equation to streamline and avoid redundancies and duplicate efforts, VanRoekel said. “We’re thinking more strategically about our relationship with out vendors,” he said, “because I think it’s very important strategic relationship, not just a vendor-client relationship.”

PortfolioStat will also help agencies uncover wasteful and duplicative investments in commodity IT, for example, the number of e-mail systems an agency is running. The Labor Department is currently running seven e-mail systems across the agency “so there’s an opportunity there to save a lot of money,” VanRoekel said.

The newly launched tool will help agencies look at how many technology contracts are in place and also provide agencies an avenue to report back to the Office of Management and Budget. 

“If you look across the government, I think we’re making big strides; we’re starting to see a cultural shift to viewing IT as strategic,” he said. “I think we’ll get there as a government. It’s going to take leadership, it's going to take new conversations happening and it's going to take a new shift in culture driving all of this."

VanRoekel also briefly alluded to the forthcoming federal digital strategy when Connolly suggested telework as an additional area to be discussed among agency heads.

"We're very close to releasing a new digital strategy for government, and we bring telework into that conversation as a way to talk about really the consumerization of technology and the impact of mobile on the federal footprint ," VanRoekel said. "We're not very far from you taking the device sitting in front of you and just plugging that in -- it just becomes a conversation about screen size, not about where you are and how you're accessing the network. It's 'anytime, anywhere, any device' and make that government experience exist for federal employees and for citizens interacting with government. It needs to be a necessity. "

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.


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