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Cloud-First Initiative Threatens Federal Systems Status Quo
There May Be Blood
By: Tim Negris
Dec. 21, 2010 12:05 AM
Vivek Kundra, the CIO of the United States, is getting down to business on the "Cloud First" initiative that was announced by the OMB a few weeks back. He's been showing a snappy slide deck around town in DC the past few days that will probably affect different people in very different ways.
Taxpayers should love it because it is a plan for saving money and improving efficiency throughout the government. Commercial CIOs should learn from it, because it illustrates a practical and practicable approach to cloud computing. And the freebooters and freeloaders of the "federal systems" fraternity should be very, very afraid of it because it says their back-scratching days may be numbered.
The presentation outlines a 25-point implementation plan to reform federal IT management in two areas: Achieving Operational Efficiency and Effectively Managing Large-Scale IT Programs. The plan lays out 25 action items, each with one or more "owners" and a completion deadline from 6-18 months from now.
The 25 items are divided across six key goals and for each of them the presentation gives a representative case study. A lot of the items are what you might expect but there are some real surprises, and the case studies do not pull any punches, as the following samples show.
Adopting "Light" Technology and Shared Services
Surprise Item: Create a government-wide marketplace for data center availability
Case Study: Dept. of Interior Infrastructure Consolidation
Issue: Despite spending billions of dollars, significant inefficiencies exist.
Before - Employees cannot send department-wide emails because of 13 fragmented email systems
After - Consolidated cloud-based email for 100% of users by Oct 2011 saving of $36M over 5 years
Strengthening Program Management
Surprise Item: Enable IT program manager mobility across government and industry
Case Study: National Flood Insurance Program
Issue: $40M spent over 7 years on a system that does not work
Before - NextGen system accepted without system design, requirements, and testing
After - NextGen project terminated, reduced budget by $23.8M
Aligning the Acquisition Process with the Technology Cycle
Surprise Item: Reduce barriers to entry for small innovative technology companies
Case Study: Veterans Benefits Modernization
Issue: Over a decade spent on modernizing a benefits processing system
Before- Multi-year "boil the ocean" contracts, 10 years of delivery with no functioning system
After - Agile, modular contracts, customer-facing deliverables every 6 months
Aligning the Budget Process with the Technology Cycle
Surprise Item: Work with Congress to consolidate Commodity IT spending under Agency CIO
Case Study: USPTO Patent File Wrapper Program
Issue: Failed to meet customer needs; halted for 2 years by PTO
Before - Examiners used 16 interfaces, up to 2 hours to open applications, no text search
After - One interface, near-instantaneous opening, full text search, $99.5M budget reduction
Streamlining Governance and Increasing Accountability
Surprise Item: Redefine role of Agency CIOs and Federal CIO Council
Case Study: HUD Transformation Initiatives
Issue: Undertaking multiple transformation projects without sufficient capacity or governenance
Before - 29 projects with many delays, missing controls and $310M budget
After - 7 projects with 6-month deliverables and $185.7M budget
Increasing Engagement with Industry
Surprise Items: Launch "myth-busters" education campaign and pre-RFP agency-industry collaboration
Case Study: FBI Biometric Identification Technology to Replace Legacy System
Issue: Complex project needs oversight to ensure justification and staying on track
Before - Next Gen functionality unclear, no legacy decommissioning plan
After - Project broken into smaller, 6-month phases, legacy system closed in 2015
From these highlights and the full presentation, taxpayer should see how Kundra's new regime is already yielding considerable financial and efficiency benefits and CIOs should see parallels with the challenges they are facing and best practices they can follow.
But the heavy message here is for the large technology vendors and service contractors and their well-courted customers in many federal agencies and administrative offices. Kundra isn't putting it quite this way, but he clearly aims to crush the cabal that wastes money and time, stifles innovation, and excludes smaller, nimbler suppliers. There's a new IT sheriff in DC and he means business.
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