December 19, 2010 Leave a comment
On December 9th Vivek Kundra, the U.S.Chief Information Officer (USCIO), released a “25 Point Plan to Reform Federal Information Technology Management.” Kundra acknowledges the cost of IT systems to the American people (~~$600billion during the past decade), and the reality that even with this investment the federal government lags behind private industry in both functionality and governance.
Highlights of the plan include a push towards data center consolidation, a “cloud first” policy for new IT projects (as well as IT refresh),a search and destroy mission looking for deadbeat and under-performing projects, as well as using professional program managers and acquisition specialists to streamline the purchase and implementation of IT systems.
Sounds Good, But is it Real?
It is very possible the document was impressive and quite encouraging due to the talents of writers assigned to spin Kundra’s message. On the other hand, it all makes a lot of, well, plain good sense.
For example, on the topic of public private partnerships, and engaging industry early in the planning process.
Given the pace of technology change, the lag between when the government defines its requirements and when the contractor begins to deliver is enough time for the technology to fundamentally change, which means that the program may be outdated on the day it starts …
…In addition, requirements are often developed without adequate input from industry, and without enough communication between an agency’s IT staff and the program employees who will actually be using the hardware and software…
…As a result, requirements are too often unrealistic (as to performance, schedule, and cost estimates), or the requirements that the IT professionals develop may not provide what the program staff expect – or both.
This makes a lot of sense. Face it, the government does not develop innovation or technology, private industry develops innovation. And government, as the world’s largest IT users, consumes that technology.
And since the government is often so large, it is near impossible to for the government to collect and disseminate best practices and operational “lessons learned” at the same pace possible within private industry. In private industry aggressive governance and cooperation with vendors are essential to survival and ultimate success as a company.
Small businesses in the technology space drive enormous innovation throughout the economy . However, the Federal Government does not fully tap into the new ideas created by small businesses…
…smaller firms are more likely to produce the most disruptive and creative innovations. In addition, with closer ties to cutting edge, ground-breaking research, smaller firms often have the best answers for the Federal Government
Kundra goes on to acknowledge the fact small companies are where innovation happens within any industry or market. While Cisco, Microsoft, Google, and others such as Computer Associates have a wide range of innovative products and solutions, a large percentage of those ideas are from acquisitions absorbed in an effort to reinforce the large company’s market strategy.
Small, innovative companies produce disruptive ideas and technologies, and the federal government should not be prevented from exposure and potential purchase of products being developed outside of the Fortune 500. Makes sense for the government, makes sense for the small business community.
Within 12 months, the office of the Federal CIO will create a technology fellows program and the accompanying recruiting infrastructure. By partnering directly with universities with well-recognized technology programs, the Federal Government will tap into the emerging talent pool and begin to build a sustainable pipeline of talent.
While projects sponsored by the National Science Foundation and Defense Advanced Project Research Agency (DARPA) have been around for a while, this is still a very refreshing attitude towards motivating both students and those who lead our students.
The American technology industry, while still the best in the world, works kind of like Cisco or Google. With a few exceptions, the skills and talent those companies need to maintain the competitive dominance in their market must be imported from other countries. if you do not believe this, take a drive through Palo Alto, Milpitas, or stop for lunch on Tasman Drive in Santa Clara. English is not always the dominant language.
However, that does not need to be the case, nor does the US tech brain pool need to revolve around Silicon Valley. if the US Government and Kundra are true to this idea, then partnering with all levels of education throughout the United States to develop either high level technologies, or even small components of those technologies can only serve to increase the intellectual and subsequent technology capacity of our country.
People and companies rarely lose motivation when faced with attainable challenges or success – by nature they will gain additional and higher thresholds for additional successes.
Cloud Computing is the Next Cyclone of Technology
Overall, everything in the 25 point plan eventually points back to cloud computing. Like a low pressure system sucking in hot air and developing circulation, the CIO’s cloud computing strategy will continue to attract additional ideas and success for making Information and Communications Technology (ICT) efficient, and an enabling tool for our future growth.
Cloud Computing, within the context of the 25 point plan, enables data center consolidation, software innovation, public private partnerships, efficiency, transparency, “green” everything,
We need to replace these “stovepiped” efforts, which too often push in inconsistent directions, with an approach that brings together the stakeholders and integrates their efforts…
The cloud computing cyclone will not stop with the federal government. Once the low begins to strengthen and develop circulation, it will continue sucking state government initiatives, local governments, the academic community, and industry into the “eye.”
The financial benefits of converting wasted operational and capital budgets currently spent on building and maintaining inefficient systems into innovation and product development, or better program management for government and educational programs are essential in promoting economic growth, not to mention reducing a nightmare national deficit.
Hopping on the “Kundra Vision” Bandwagon
As Americans we need to expose ourselves to Kundra’s programs and strategy. No strategy is perfect, and can benefit from the synergies of a country with 300 million citizens who have ideas, visions, and strong desires to contribute to a better America. We need to push our ideas to both local and federal thought leaders, including the US CIO’s office. Push through your representatives, through blogs, through your technology vendors.
If Kundra is good for his word, and this is the new vision for an American ICT-enabled future, your efforts will not be wasted.