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‘Do or Do not. There is no try.’ And more from AFFIRM’s Monthly Speaker Series

Technology is an enabler. It gives us the ability to harvest big data, mobilize in ways unknown to previous generations, and shows us the means to improve every aspect of society. But that’s all. It just gives us the means, not the action.

Some industry leaders are looking to turn means into action. One of AFFIRM’s (the Association for Federal Information Resources Management) monthly panels looked at successful IT projects in government, the challenges faced, and the factors that contributed to their success, all with their unique visions in their agencies.

Sonny Hashmi, Acting Chief Information Officer at the GSA, wants to eliminate the label of an ‘IT project.’

“One of the biggest things we need to do to make IT projects successful is to stop calling them IT projects,” said Hashmi. “99% of the projects we do should not be IT projects, they should be business investments. If it doesn’t fail, the barrier to success will be higher for IT projects.”

In the future, business will be IT and IT will be business. It all goes back to culture and our culture is changing.

“A good CIO understands business needs,” said Hashmi. “But a better CIO is able to move the business in a positive direction. A great CIO is actually able to move the market. And not move the market in terms of the IT market, but really help shape the direction of the organization.”

Param Soni, Chief Architect for the Environmental Protection Agency, said that a solid architecture is vital. He has his own acronym for developing how a system should come together and operate.

“I tell people about GEAR,” said Soni. “G is for Goal, E is get Engaged, A is be Accountable, R is furnish Results.”

Pete Tseronis, Chief Technology Officer at the Department of Energy, is also focused on results. He believes in a ‘can-do’ environment.

“You can have the leadership, a process policy that says thou shall,” said Tseronis. “But especially in the last couple a years as I’ve been involved in the role itself, to me it’s about having doers. A doer to me is someone who’s a passionate and comes to work and wants to make a difference. Doers do whatever they have to in order to meet the challenge.”

Soni also addressed the need to keep stakeholders involved throughout the entire development process of a project.

“We need to get the stakeholders engaged for the lifecycle. Stakeholders can be anybody.”

Smaller projects are successful because of the control of scope, time, and resources. Larger projects can falter from a multitude of external factors so it’s even more vital to keep stakeholders involved.

Kirit Amin, Deputy CIO and Chief Technology Officer for the Commerce Departments, reiterated how you can’t be married to a single process. A holistic approach will always yield more positive effects.

“If you do certain things right like proper leadership, proper sponsorship, proper discipline, then that will lead you to [better technology]. If you succeed, I feel you need to have feature processes of technology addressed. What I call is a 3-legged stool. People-process-technology. If any of those legs cannot equally, it will not wobble on that stool.”

Lorraine Landfried, Deputy CIO for Product Development at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, stressed how half-measures don’t get the job done.

“One of our biggest challenges is having the commitment to turn them into IT projects that are not too complex, and too actually involved,” said Landfried. “From the Empire Strikes Back, do or do not; there is no try. And that’s really what we tell every product manager when he or she joins the VA.”

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