Smart government IT can be a catalyst for change
- By Vance Edward Hitch
- Oct 12, 2012
If there is anything that helps define the work of federal CIOs, it might be the reality of cost efficiency. Today’s budget constraints can make the work all the more challenging because many agency IT infrastructures are sorely in need of updating. Consequently, CIOs must find creative ways to achieve greater economy and effectiveness and to integrate themselves into their agency’s mission objectives.
IT might once have been just a back-office operation, but today it can be a vital tool for improving government operations overall — a view championed by Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel and the CIO Council. The cloud-first policy and the Digital Government Strategy both look to a future where IT can assist in goal-oriented decision-making by government executives and the citizens they serve.
In this era of fiscal austerity, there are three important steps that could help federal CIOs and executives realize the power of IT to be a catalyst for agency change.
Give CIOs more budget authority. CIOs need the authority to manage their own technology budgets and spearhead IT initiatives across the entire agency. This might require a broader definition of the CIO’s role — from a technology adviser and broker of IT services to a mission-enabling partner for operational managers. Today, a few CIOs have been propelled into this position as the result of a crisis, such as a mission failure due to an IT error or interruption in service. But CIOs are engaged to avoid critical system failures. Therefore, agencies hoping to secure their systems, integrate functions and achieve cost savings might need to use the services of their CIOs differently.
Integrate IT more closely with mission functions. CIOs who see technology as an integral part of their agency’s mission functions can achieve greater budgetary and integration success. During my tenure at the Justice Department, I understood that day-to-day IT functions and providing services to our 40 components constituted only one part of my job. Another part involved working directly with agency officials to understand the mission and provide insight into how IT could help them achieve that mission more efficiently and effectively, which gave me the opportunity to help shape key departmental budget priorities.
Create an IT strategic plan. To date, Office of Management and Budget initiatives, such as the 25-Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal IT Management, have created good policy building blocks for IT management. For smart government IT to become a reality, however, agency CIOs must champion the development of integrated, enterprisewide IT strategic plans that are tied to mission accomplishment. The reality is that yearly budget cycles are not always based on ground-up strategic planning. Today, a new or refreshed IT strategic plan might be completed every five years, but rarely does it represent a big-picture look at the new reality. Instead, such plans should be integrated with the department’s overall business strategy and incorporate specific details, including a cost/benefit analysis and projected budgeting.
Changing the way we view IT can be the first step toward seizing the opportunity to build a smarter, more efficient and more cost-effective government. IT can be the springboard to smarter government, and CIOs can help by stimulating discussions on how best to accomplish agency missions while looking at multiple alternatives, including the effective use of technology.
At Deloitte, Vance Hitch helps agencies identify long-term technology and transformation opportunities. Prior to Deloitte, Hitch served as the Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Chief Information Officer of the Department of Justice (DOJ) since 2002. He has over 34 years of experience in successfully leading government organizations through major change initiatives.
At DOJ, he is responsible for spearheading and implementing the effective, efficient acquisition and management of information technology (IT) across the Department. He manages its $3 billion IT programs, providing oversight and strategic guidance to the components within the Department, as well as major internal investments that serve its more than 115,000 DOJ employees. Mr. Hitch also advises the Deputy Attorney General and Assistant Attorney General for Administration in the management of IT infrastructure across the approximately 2,000 locations in 500 U.S. cities where the Department has assets.
During his tenure with the Department, Hitch has pushed for the use of innovative procurement approaches, initiated major Department-wide IT solutions, and helped stabilize problematic programs. Hitch has instituted new funding models as well as organizational and process improvements to increase IT effectiveness and efficiency. He established the Department IT Investment Review Board (DIRB), chaired by the Deputy Attorney General, and developed and implemented a process for DIRB Certification of IT programs greater than $100 million.
Prior to DOJ, Hitch was a Senior Partner with Accenture. At Accenture, he managed major practice areas as well as specific programs for over 28 years, included the design, development, and integration of major technology initiatives in government.
Mr. Hitch earned a Masters of Systems Management from George Washington University and a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Muhlenberg College. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1969 to 1973, attaining the rank of lieutenant.