Digital Edition

Cloud-First Initiative Threatens Federal Systems Status Quo
There May Be Blood

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.

About Tim Negris
Tim Negris is SVP, Marketing & Sales at Yottamine Analytics, a pioneering Big Data machine learning software company. He occasionally authors software industry news analysis and insights on, is a 25-year technology industry veteran with expertise in software development, database, networking, social media, cloud computing, mobile apps, analytics, and other enabling technologies.

He is recognized for ability to rapidly translate complex technical information and concepts into compelling, actionable knowledge. He is also widely credited with coining the term and co-developing the concept of the “Thin Client” computing model while working for Larry Ellison in the early days of Oracle.

Tim has also held a variety of executive and consulting roles in a numerous start-ups, and several established companies, including Sybase, Oracle, HP, Dell, and IBM. He is a frequent contributor to a number of publications and sites, focusing on technologies and their applications, and has written a number of advanced software applications for social media, video streaming, and music education.

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