Federal CIO VanRoekel Asks: How Do We Put Our Best “Future First” Foot Forward?

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This topic contains 23 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  Steve Ressler 8 years ago.

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  • #144521

    One of the biggest stories this week in the Federal IT space is CIO Steve VanRoekel’s PARC speech in which he calls on “a broad group from across industry, academia, and government….to help formulate a “Future First” initiative that will help us continuously architect for the future.”

    VanRoekel lays out several principles that will guide this “Future First” initiative, including:

    1. Do More with Less – Maximize ROI on IT Investments

    • root out waste and duplication across the federal IT portfolio
    • shift to commodity IT, leverage technology, procurement, and best practices
    • build on existing investments rather than re-inventing the wheel.

    2. Close the Productivity Gap

    • build a “future ready” workforce equipped with the modern tools and technologies
    • implement smart telework policies that give our employees increased flexibility
    • reduce real estate footprint and better enable government to function during an emergency
    • think strategically about how we buy, manage and use mobile devices and collaboration tools cost-effectively and securely.

    3. Improve Citizen and Business Interaction with Government

    • lower the barriers to interaction with the government.T
    • launch a one-stop, online portal for small businesses to find and access available programs, information, and other services from across the government
    • launch a dashboard where the public can track an initial set of large infrastructure projects through the review and permitting process.

    4. Enhance Cyber Security

    • consolidate data centers, shut down legacy systems, and move to the cloud
    • ensure Americans and our government are safe

    5. Change the Way We Invest

    • embrace modular development
    • build on open standards
    • run our projects in lean startup mode.
    • work with Congress to change our approach to funding technology

    VanRoekel closed his speech by saying that he’d “like your help in defining these ‘Future First’ principles.” So I turn it over to you, GovLoop:

    1. Are they the right principles?

    2. How should they evolve over time?

    3. How do they foster the greatest amount of competition and innovation?

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  • #144567

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    Couple principles I’d like to add to the mix.

    Honestly, I think biggest issue for CIO in his role next 2-6 years is how to dramatically lower costs

    To me, there are two important ideas:

    1) Platform first – On the concept as government as platform, government should think first – do we need to build this or can we just be the platform? A great example is E-filing, government didn’t build its own platform for e-filing but acted as a platform and coordinated with private sector companies who integrated with their back-end

    When you get into tough decisions like rebuilding the medicare or social security benefits process, I’d argue government should act more like efiling as there’s no money for government to build itself

    2) Shared-in-savings (Buy differently) – The concept of shared-in-savings has been here for awhile. Here’s an example – say GSA wants to “green” an existing building. It could either put out a RFP and pay a contractor for all their labor up-front. Or it could say, we are looking for a contractor who will do the work for free but will take a percentage of all money saved on energy costs for say 10 years. It’s a different business model for the vendor and a different budget cycle for government. But I think if done right it can be a win/win. Government will not have the up-front capital to do a lot of big projects in the next 5 years so it needs the private sector to help invest and take those risks

  • #144565

    Ryan Resella
    Participant

    I would love to see how the “Productivity gap” is actually closed.

    Will federal employees continue to bring in their own personal Macbook Pro’s while the antiquated 17″ Gateway all in one computer sits next to their desk?

  • #144563

    Nicholas Charney
    Participant

    FYI you can see the video of the speech here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46wWhUs9lTk&feature=player_embed

    🙂

  • #144561

    Julie Chase
    Participant

    Wow, you can do that and connect to a government network? You can’t be in DoD…… We have antiquated Dells, WindowsXP, Office 2007 (we just got it about a year ago), Explorer 6 I believe. And most important…..NO THUMB DRIVES ALLOWED….all external hard drives have to be bought through a “process” that is compatible to NMCI network. If you tried to hook up another computer (say your home use Mac), bells and whistles would go off at the GovGeekHeadShed and your IAO would get a phone call. Also, NO WIRELESS, period, for anyone, anywhere, anytime. We have software packages we purchased through the “process” and are unable to use them because we need wireless capability. Adobe Pro is very expensive and we only have 3 loaded in a 10 person office. Printers are networked, no printer next to your desk top. You print, and walk into the common area to pick up what you printed. Yeah, I’d like to see some changes…..like a computer that doesn’t take close to 5 minutes to boot up. A co worker who lives in a rural area says his dial up is faster.

  • #144559

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    That’s no good.

    So what would be your recommendations?

  • #144557

    Julie Chase
    Participant

    GovLoop, truth and reality here, there is absolutely nothing a lower end GS clerk can do about it. Everything we do is governed by a “Directive”. ….every process, every form, everything you do has an instruction. It’s kind of like Pharoah in the Ten Commandments said, “So let it be written, so let it be done.”

    Remember, it’s all about “security”. There are forms we continue to use that date back to the 70’s. There are Directives that are so old, the word computer isn’t a word yet.

    Babyboomers are heading for the door as fast or as quick as a VSIP is offered. We like computers, we are all about innovation. Remember, in government, it is all about the “process”, “the steps” to get you where you need to be. No short cuts, no work arounds allowed, unless a “new” directive emerges. I don’t think in the real world it takes 6 months to procure a stand alone technology or software. In the real world, it may take a week. I have no less than 12 people on my email list for this procurement of whom do not work at my installation and have never met. This is where a millenial, righly so would say, “Hey, you’ve got a contracting office right here at this installation, shouldn’t they procure things for you?” Yeah, one would think so. It’s not for anything classified…..so what is the problem?

    You tell me GovLoop guy and then we’ll both know.

  • #144555

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    Ah…true 🙂

    But cool part and the power of GovLoop is that collectively we have a voice and people in positions do listen to our ideas.

    So that’s the goal of GL – let’s come up with solutions and propose them.

    Some solutions I got from your thread:

    -Focus on streamlining processes & directives
    -Focus on true risk-based security
    -Provide technology that is at least as good as you’d have as home 🙂 (no old Dells with no thumbdrives, no wireless, etc)

  • #144553

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    Some good answers from Twitter:

    good to say it, challenge to get the idea breathing throughout government; day-to-day workers, not just CIO

    good acknowledgement on procurement as a major issue.. seen before, but bears repeating

    Alex Howard

    @
    I think saying government should act like a lean startup will be much easier than leading it to do so.
  • #144551

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    Another quote from Twittersphere – its all nice, but he’s got no hammer to fulfill this vision

  • #144549

    Mark Forman
    Participant

    I am glad to see that the Administration is learning and becoming more sophisticated in their IT reforms. They have brought in some knowledgable and experienced IT executives, like Lisa Schlosser and David McClure who are world-class.

    But, there is little new here from IT reform initaitives over the past 16 years (indeed the Administration threw away key documents and lessons learned and now beleives it is coming up with fresh, new ideas…deja vu for many if us reformers). The Administration still does not have a government management reform strategy that incorporates IT into a business transformation strategy. So, it views IT as somehow independent of overall government management practices and organization structures…a cost center in commercial vernacular. That’s really wrong.

    To catalyze worthwhile innovation, the principles must attack root causes of problems, recognizing that bad IT projects and excessive spending are really symptons of non-IT problems. For example, Mr. VanRoekel will only be able to get rid of redundant IT when OMB AND CONGRESSIONAL Appropriators fund the development and business model for shared services and stop funding redundant activities (a fight that also dates to the 1990s). Since 2009, OMB has maintained it is not worth it or feasible to drive the change needed to make this a reality. And, about 6 years ago, Congressional Appropriators blocked shared services because of fear or loss of control over their agency funds.

    Creating information portals is not a worthy endeavor. 10 years ago, e-gov studies showed that web sites that provide single points of information are never used, because people would rather use google. The only way to generate value out of a business gateway is to lower transaction costs, and we could never get the agencies to do that type of burden reducing at the business.gov gateway. It can be done and many countries did create a single multi-agency form for starting a business, etc. at their gateway.

    I dont think the Obama folks have enough time to understand the root cause of the problems they are trying to fix, and again these initiatives seem to be band-aids covering symptoms of bigger problems. I expect this to change dramatically if the Super Committee goes after program redundancy. Then, VanRoekel could be in the right place at the right time and we could see a lot of progress.

  • #144547

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    I did wonder with the one-stop business site – did they know of business.gov? Is this just a business.gov redo?

    Agree that the hardest part is funding and the process.

    Will be interesting how much the Super Committee really pushes – as you said, could be right place at right time.

    Also could be funny if they used some crowdsourced mechanisms to get at some problems. Like on “Future Ready” workforce technology if they had a site where people could submit photos of their workstations as a way to show what real tech is like for majority of workers and spur change.

  • #144545

    Mark Forman
    Participant

    great idea. especially for people who work at home/Panera/etc. and generate lots of great business results.

  • #144543

    Michael Stevens
    Participant

    I dig it Ryan! As a new generation comes into government, so does the technology they love to use.

    VanRoekel should take a look at OPM and how the agency is getting it done. The director listens and pushes for the best. There is currently an iPad initiative and you can use your personal iPhone on the agency network after simple steps with our Help Desk. Security has not been compromised. Of course, the next step at OPM is implementing use of popular technology agency wide, maybe even standard issue.

    This just speaks to his main point, great stuff is already being done in government. Let’s find it and share for the better!

    @Julie: My specific division at OPM handles DOD clearances with this new technology. Shhhh…. don’t let it out!

  • #144541

    Mark Forman
    Participant

    @Michael

    what’s your take on USAJOBS. Seems like the cost to build it was 3x what had been budgeted in past years, and that there were newer allternatives to Monster that could have been acquired as a web-service.

  • #144539

    Hi Mark – My sense from a first read was that it was a reiteration of ongoing goals, as you point out. So that continuity is important…but the real challenge, as you also indicate, is that the problems aren’t with IT, but with culture. And if his track record at FCC is any indication, he knows how to create culture change through an IT initiative. I’m hoping he can achieve similar success government-wide.

  • #144537

    Mark Forman
    Participant

    Amen to that! Let’s hope he can get that working on the Hill, too!

  • #144535

    Julie Chase
    Participant

    GovLoop guy……you got it!

    That is why I keep coming back to GovLoop every night after work (we can’t get you during the working hours, you are blocked). The wheels are always turning here and that is so great!

    My new manager is all about efficiency and sadly has found, as we all have, it’s anything but.

    Risk and security is not determined by the low level user of an unclassified machine, it is by the top brass who haven’t a clue what we do, down in the basement of civil service.

    I read on another gov news source that DoD and DoN are having a heck of time getting bidders, other than NexGen to bid on the IT contract because IMHO it’s real low-ball in which case it will be no better than what we have now, or there are contractors out there who are too high on the price.

    As for the thumb drives they have been BANNED DoD wide for about 2 yrs now. If you put one in your machine, your IAO will get a nasty email. My suggestion was to have the IT dept purchase thumb drives, cleaned and screened and dole them out to us where any other thumb drive than the one issued will not work. The technology is there.

    Our dept in the very near future is going to need advanced technology to do our mission. It’s the nature of the beast….but we are but a dustspeck on Horton’s nose.

  • #144533

    Michael Stevens
    Participant

    @

  • #144531

    Julie Chase
    Participant

    Mike, I don’t want or need an IPad, I don’t want Uncle Sam’s stuff on my personal phone and it would be a waste of taxpayer dollars to issue me a phone. I would just like to be able to have a work computer that boots up within seconds vs minutes. I would like to be able to order software and stand alone hardware within at my agency contracting dept., at my installation instead of 2 states away through 20 people whom I’ve never met or will meet. I would like my hardware and software to have a 2 week turn around at the most vs. 6 months or more. I would like my thumb drive back. If my computer has a problem, I don’t want to call someone in San Diego about it, I want to talk to someone at my installation who is familiar with me, my dept and our mission to assist me. If my computer or my co workers computer shows the blue screen of death, I don’t want someone in San Deigo or Norfolk, whom I don’t know telling me that they will refer my ticket to the local help desk, “Welll geez louise, that is who I wanted to talk to in the first place.” When someone shows up to take my computer because the blue screen of death got to it, I would like them to plunk down another computer in it’s place, rather than telling me, “I’m sorry, Ms. Chase, I don’t know when, how long, or if you’ll get your computer back, you can buddy up with someone else in the office.” Oh, yeah, that will go over well. Do you see the problem here Mike?

    The end user has no say, we just have to put up with “whatever the contract says”.

  • #144529

    Mark Forman
    Participant

    Having worked in government and the private sector, this sounds the same as the big companies i worked at. ugh

  • #144527

    Ryan Resella
    Participant
  • #144525

    Christina Morrison
    Participant

    Great to see that one of Steve’s focuses is to close the productivity gap through modern technology and telework policies! Also very excited to see what specific strategies he lays out for principle #3 on improving citizen and business interaction with government – there are lots of great Gov 2.0 ideas out there, but bringing the best ideas together in one central location and offer them to businesses and local governments would be a great step.

  • #144523

    Mark Dixon
    Participant

    OK, here goes…but from the architectural perspective…

    1. Are they the right principles?

    Basically, yes. But there is a some fluff and fairly obvious things in there…

    2. How should they evolve over time?

    Remains to be seen…you have to crawl before you walk and walk before you run…show me measurable results…ROI.

    3. How do they foster the greatest amount of competition and innovation?

    Huh? This is the Federal government, not the marketplace. Competition? with whom/what? Innovation? Most government institutions at all levels have lost the ability to innovate…truly innovate…its cultural…read some of the other posts here.


    So now, some detailed commentary…

    1. Do More with Less – Maximize ROI on IT Investments (well, yes)

    • root out waste and duplication across the federal IT portfolio (agreed, but how?)
    • shift to commodity IT, leverage technology, procurement, and best practices (a pop culture approach…all the buzzwords are there…)
    • build on existing investments rather than re-inventing the wheel (nice idea, but still buzzwords)

    Comment: “Building on existing investments” while “shifting to commodity IT” is oxymoronic. Maybe its just political pablum that non-techies can understand. Point being some legacy systems work just fine and not all workloads are suited for “commodity IT”. Google’s scale-out architecture works for its major function (search) in a highly parallelized manner…but I wouldn’t want my bank or investment or insurance accounts running on that infrastructure.


    2. Close the Productivity Gap (nice goal)

    • build a “future ready” workforce equipped with the modern tools and technologies
    • implement smart telework policies that give our employees increased flexibility
    • reduce real estate footprint and better enable government to function during an emergency
    • think strategically about how we buy, manage and use mobile devices and collaboration tools cost-effectively and securely.

    Comment: Consolidation of DCs (real estate) is a good thing and I like the concept of “distributive” technologies that can better function in an emergency…all good. The rest is kinda more pablum/buzz…true productivity comes from re-engineering the processes…Business Architecture and IT Architecture…so all the talk about modern tools and mobile devices masks the real issue.


    3. Improve Citizen and Business Interaction with Government

    • lower the barriers to interaction with the government.
    • launch a one-stop, online portal for small businesses to find and access available programs, information, and other services from across the government
    • launch a dashboard where the public can track an initial set of large infrastructure projects through the review and permitting process.

    Comment: Openness and Transparency are good things…gotta say this no matter what. Proof is in the pudding…what gets done and what gets opened up…


    4. Enhance Cyber Security

    • consolidate data centers, shut down legacy systems, and move to the cloud
    • ensure Americans and our government are safe

    Comment: Talking about consolidation and legacy systems here (cyber security) does not make sense unless the context is that fewer DCs should be able to be better secured with the same or less resources. Note that what some would call legacy systems (i.e. mainframes) are the most secure servers in the world (see comment about workloads above). Note also that standardization, a pre-req for cloud can promote better security…so a cloud can be more secure than the mess we have today. The second comment is more political pablum…I thought that was the mission of DHS and NSA and other overlapping functions…(see item 1 comment).


    5. Change the Way We Invest

    • embrace modular development
    • build on open standards
    • run our projects in lean startup mode.
    • work with Congress to change our approach to funding technology

    Comment: All good here…the key is in the funding approach, which also extends to the state and local levels, in that cities, counties and states that can do IT fairly well need to have the freedom to implement solutions (virtualization, another pre-req for cloud) and are not restricted by verbiage in bills/directives written by folks that have no clue about technology. Same goes internally within Fed IT.


    Federal IT has a long way to go…buckle up for the journey. It will take years, if not decades. Luckily, demographics (aging workforce) and economics (deficit reduction efforts) will be working in our favor. I think a more realistic view is described by John Rucker here.

    Comments?




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