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How GSA Stays Ahead of the IT Modernization Curve

The General Services Administration (GSA) is no stranger to streamlining IT processes. Prior to the passage of the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), GSA was already working towards the goal of mitigating IT inefficiencies in government by consolidating all IT functions into one organization, known now as GSA IT.

“We are seven standard deviations ahead of the federal average for use of cloud,” David Shive, GSA Chief Information Officer (CIO), stated at a ServiceNow Federal Summit on March 4. “My budget over the last five years has shrunk by 17.8 percent occurring annually. The employee satisfaction for use of technology has gone up 20 percent in that same time. So we’re spending dramatically less money and obtaining better outcomes.”

Shive recently shared more with GovLoop about everything from how the agency has been working diligently to streamline the IT environment, reduce duplication, simplify technology, to fostering an environment of technology reuse and collaborative sharing.

Shive’s responses have been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

GOVLOOP: What are some IT modernization initiatives you’re working on at GSA? Who was involved with those initiatives?

SHIVE: As we realized efficiencies, we shifted resources from running legacy applications and infrastructure to investing in efforts to grow and transform GSA’s business IT systems. For example:

  • Cloud First: GSA migrated several infrastructure and application development efforts to the cloud to increase efficiencies, drive rapid deployments, reduce costs and improve service delivery. By using cloud-based email and collaboration tools, instead of owning and maintaining the legacy tools and infrastructure, GSA realized large cost savings. With our cloud-based, customer relationship management platform, GSA also reduced custom application development work by taking advantage of reusable tools, resulting in a significant ROI in both initial development and maintenance costs.
  • Data Center Consolidation: GSA IT closed more than 120 data centers as part of the Data Center Consolidation and Optimization Initiative. The closures avoided more than $26 million between fiscal 2012 and fiscal 2018 and reduced the agency’s overall energy consumption and leased and owned real estate footprint. GSA continues to leverage cloud services and inter-agency shared services with our agency partners (NASA and EPA) to optimize our data center, compute and storage needs.
  • Help Desk Consolidation: GSA consolidated 18 enterprise help desks and transformed the help desk operations into a unified, cloud-based platform. The new platform streamlined IT support, change management, asset management, and configuration management across the agency, resulting in large savings since FY 2012.
  • Application Rationalization: The enterprise architecture team performed technology reviews for most of our service and staff offices through a process called application rationalization. They analyzed all of the applications to determine the business need, usage, future requirements, costs, technology and much more. Following the application deep dives, the team worked with business and technical subject matter experts to determine if the application would be tolerated, invested, migrated or eliminated (TIME). This allowed governance boards to make data-driven investment decisions. It also resulted in data centralization, improved resource allocation, increased end-user satisfaction, and increased IT security that supported our overall modernization strategy.

GOVLOOP: Looking back on the process of reaching or progressing towards your IT modernization goals, what would you improve?

SHIVE: It is important to clearly define, communicate, and monitor the scope of modernization efforts over time. This can be accomplished by a modernization roadmap that will help clarify objectives, define a path forward to gain buy-in and support from stakeholders and ensure work is coordinated across all workstreams. A robust change management plan will ensure the new technology is adopted and correctly used by end users to realize the full potential and benefits of the solution. Customer input is also critical throughout the delivery process. This will ensure business requirements are considered and met throughout the transformation.

GOVLOOP: What are you doing to further IT modernization this year?

SHIVE: GSA has been trusted to play a leading role in IT modernization across the government through a variety of governmentwide initiatives, including the President’s Management Agenda (PMA). Through our own IT office, GSA is committed to modernizing its legacy IT systems. We work closely with our business stakeholders and technology subject matter experts to rationalize and prioritize our portfolio of IT spending. From these decisions, we develop roadmaps to prioritize and focus future year planning and IT modernization initiatives.

In support of our modernization objectives, GSA was recently awarded $35 million in reimbursable funding from the Technology Modernization Fund Board to support two strategic IT initiatives that will benefit not only GSA but also other federal agencies.

  • NewPay Payroll Program ($20.7 million): Most Federal payroll operations use decades-old legacy software, which is costly as well as difficult to maintain. GSA will procure and configure a cloud-enabled solution for payroll, work schedule, and leave management, laying the foundation for shared human resources functions governmentwide. By the end of this project, GSA will be better positioned to serve as a federal-wide shared service provider. This project will benefit GSA and our customer agencies by transitioning back-office operations to modern technology, reducing costs, decreasing operational risks and applying commercial innovation to solve a common challenge.
  • Application Modernization to Integrate Flexible Architectures (~$15 million): GSA has nearly 90 applications in need of modernization. This project will allow GSA to conduct a pilot for application modernizations and to transform legacy, proprietary software into open source technologies. This transformation will simplify our technology architecture, reduce delivery times and institute more secure and frequent deployments. Because of GSA’s vital role in driving innovation across the government, this modernization effort will benefit other federal agencies as well. We will generate a playbook that can be put to work in other agencies that are facing similar technology challenges.

GSA is also co-leading the Cross-Agency Priority Goal on Technology Business Management (TBM), along with the Department of Education, through the President’s Management Agenda. Our work with TBM through the PMA will provide a framework that will allow our partners across the federal government to understand the true value of their IT investments and how the use of technology can help achieve measurable, positive business outcomes.

By implementing TBM, GSA is on the cutting edge of changing the culture around making data-driven decisions and trade-offs between cost, quality, and value. GSA IT started employing TBM fundamentals in 2013 with a zero-based budget. This allowed a granular view into “what” we were purchasing. Today we are bringing in more of the TBM framework to include data around “why” we purchased the IT. We are increasingly able to show value for the products and services we use to support the business of the federal government, and better account for every taxpayer dollar spent on technology.

This is part one of a two-part interview with Shive. Click here to read part two.

Photo Credit: GSA.gov

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