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Editor’s note: This column is testimony before the House Committee on Government Reform, Subcommittee on Technology and Procurement Policy, given back on September 18, 2002.
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee:
Thank you for inviting me to testify before the committee today.
For a private sector IT executive entering government service, the problems with government IT are readily apparent: There is no cohesive strategy, there are too many points of control, and there is a nearly complete lack of standards and processes.
These root causes lead to fundamental long-term issues. There is tremendous duplication of effort and cost, and there is widespread poor performance in critical areas including information security, disaster recovery, privacy protection, run-away program costs, e-government progress, service levels to internal customers, and service to citizens and businesses.
Without empowered technology management, the IT infrastructure of the federal government has grown in a chaotic and ad-hoc fashion. The cost of this chaos is substantial. First, at least 25 percent of agency IT funds are wasted each year due to the tremendous duplication of effort caused by ad-hoc infrastructure. In my written testimony, I have included four specific examples from the Department of Commerce that are representative of issues that exist on a much larger scale across the entire federal enterprise. Commerce, like the rest of the federal government, operates far too many data centers, networks, Web servers, and help desks. Consolidation of these infrastructure items across the federal enterprise would save billions.
Second, in this ad-hoc structure many IT organizations do not have sufficient expertise to adequately address critical items such as information security, disaster recovery, and privacy protection.
Third, it is this chaotic structure that creates most of the problems encountered in efforts to improve responsiveness to citizens and cross-government solutions.
Mr. Chairman, private sector companies have established strong CIOs for only one reason – profit. Reducing cost, avoiding risk, and better serving customers are compelling profitability issues that have forced companies to deal with their internal politics. Though profit is not a motivation for change in government, cost reduction, risk reduction, and citizen satisfaction should be.
And that’s why we need a Federal CIO. We need someone with the charter to look at federal government IT as an enterprise issue, to find common problems, enforce common solutions, and to convince all parties that change is required for the good of the enterprise. We need a strong, empowered leader who can galvanize the support necessary from both the administration and congress to deal with the hard issues, find the root causes, and bring the federal government out of its IT malaise.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for providing me the time to address this important issue.
Tags: , Green IT
How often do you power down your desktop computer at home or work? If you don’t, you’ve got company. Seventy percent of us don’t power down our PC at work when we leave for extended periods. Fifty percent of us leave our home system on. Individually, it’s a minor matter. One PC consumes about two cents worth of electricity for every hour it runs.
But according to a report by Forrester Research, more than one billion PCs will be humming along worldwide by the end of 2008. And that’s where the potential tuppences of energy savings numbers get staggering. I put the following statistics into a spreadsheet:
And here are my two favorite statistics:
Conclusion: Desktop PCs sitting in the idle loop account for about 1.5 percent of the total world’s oil consumption each year. That’s about five days, or if you like it in dollars, more than 42 billion dollars per year spent in the idle loop. Like inflating our tires properly, a small change in behavior could have a massive impact on our energy consumption.
Why don’t we shut our systems down? We hate waiting for them to boot up. PCs run in the idle loop for hours at a time so that people don’t have to waste five to ten minutes waiting for them to boot whenever they want to use it.
And that’s where Microsoft comes in. Most of those PCs take so long to boot up because of choices made by software engineers when operating systems like Microsoft Windows were designed. Some things just have to happen on start up to ensure the system is functional and stable. But loading and execution of many other items could be done behind the scenes (and at a lower priority), made optional, or executed at shut down instead of start up.
Times have changed since the fundamental design decisions for Windows were made. I’ve never liked waiting for my system to boot up so that I can use it. But now that issue, once just a nuisance, has much more critical impact to the country and the world.
Microsoft, do you see an opportunity here?
In case you’re interested, my statistics come from the sources listed below. The calculations are my own, though, so let me know if you disagree.
At the Management of Change conference earlier this month, I heard a lot of discussion about the upcoming transition and how to survive as a CIO. All of the usual advice handed out by former CIOs was readily available.
But then someone asked a bright question: What technologies are the presidential campaigns using?
Because that’s what's going to set the expectation level for the people who have worked with those campaigns, and it's a safe bet many of those folks will be part of the transition.
So much is at stake. Therefore the campaigns have access to lots of money and bright, creative, dedicated staff. And all of the latest technologies, especially those designed for rapid communication, virtual communities, and social persuasion. The campaigns are not saddled with legacy infrastructure. They have one compelling purpose-to win! And they don't let "can't" ever get in the way of "do."
The last place you want to be as a CIO is defending your agency's Web 0.5 infrastructure to a Web 2.0 user. They're just not going to accept excuses like, "It's too big to change quickly," or "We weren’t given the budget," or "We couldn't impact the mission." They'll wait until the dinosaurs—that would be you—have left the building. In the private sector, technology is why things change so quickly. It’s hard for a private sector person to accept that technology can't be used to change government quickly too.
So, my new advice to any and all technologists who expect to be touched by the transition is to get Wiki with it. And blog. And Facebook. And a few other technologies that might be useful in your agency. Know what they are. Stand them up in your agency.
In five months, be able to point to a successful implementation of Web 2.0 technologies internally, and know how they are improving your agency's ability to perform its mission. Be able to discuss how those technologies, if used by the mission areas, would improve citizen interaction, or make government more transparent, or reduce operational costs. And let them know you’re ready to go on bigger implementations as soon as you have their support.
As a great CIO, you took the job to make change happen. Don't get saddled with the blame for the same inertia you've been battling for these many months. Refresh your high-tech chops and your resume. Be conversant in the technologies of change. Be ready to meet the new boss with a discussion of how you made your Web 2.0 programs happen. I don't guarantee you'll survive the transition, but you won't go down as just another dinosaur.
With just a few months until the next presidential election, we should start discussing where we need to go in federal IT management. About this time eight years ago we started talking about the need for a federal CIO. Although there still is no federal CIO, that discussion resulted in legislation that created the e-gov administrator position within the Office of Management and Budget. First Mark Forman and now Karen Evans have used the visibility of the position and their say over IT budgets to drive some changes in federal IT.
I think the federal government still needs an even more powerful central figure to drive even more change in how the agencies go about IT. The role must have sufficient stature to attract someone who would be hard for agencies and Congress to ignore. Substantial change will require execution of hard decisions. The appropriators don’t understand IT, so they end up wasting billions of dollars each year funding runaway, duplicative or inefficient IT projects. They won’t admit they need an empowered IT boss to control the IT budgets.
How would such an über-CIO tackle today’s federal IT environment? The answer breaks down into vision, goals, and execution.
A CIO would communicate a vision and set goals that demonstrate leadership. He or she might say, “IT should be admired as something the government does well; in which errors, mistakes and overruns are anomalies; and the skills of the professional staff are sought after by companies throughout the IT industry.”
For such a vision to happen requires measurable goals. Here are some ideas:
1.Reduce federal IT spending by 25 percent within eight years.
2.Eliminate 10 percent of the IT projects portfolio within two years, and 3 percent every year thereafter.
3.Spend 10 percent of the federal IT budget on programs designated as high risk or potentially high return.
4.Justify the customer focus of 100 percent of IT programs within two years, whether “customer” means the citizen on the civilian side or the warfighter on the defense side.
5.Instill approved program management, quality, and budget processes into 100 percent of all funded IT programs within five years.
6.Meet 75 percent of all IT program milestones—schedule, budget and functionality—as documented in the original program plan within eight years.
7.Hire 50 percent or more of new IT workers from companies that achieve less that 25 percent of their revenue from the federal government
8.Of IT workers leaving government, replace 50 percent by recruiting from companies that earn less than 25 percent of their revenue from the federal government.
A federal CIO should be prepared to gore long-standing sacred cows that impact progress. Examples are salary limits, traditional acquisition techniques or lack of interagency cooperation. Most importantly, success requires that Congress buy in. Without support from the Hill, a federal CIO would be doomed to frustration.
If this sounds like a big task, well, it is. But federal IT has $100 billion worth of mass and momentum, much of it headed in the wrong direction. Changing that course will require strong, sustained effort, and must be undertaken by someone who understands the issues, who is in it for the long term and who is willing to regularly risk losing his or her job.