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Steve O'Keeffe


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Posted: 10/24/2011 - 4 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

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CIOs + Rodney Dangerfield

To CIO or not to CIO? Ain’t that the IT question... GAO’s recent study “Federal CIOs: Opportunities Exist to Improve Role in IT Management,” stands up for every vendor’s dream date and OMB’s favorite whipping boy. With all the fuss over Federal year end, you may have missed this one - interesting insights.

Yes, the CIO’s life ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. “Well, what about Clinger-Cohen?” I hear you ask. Consider, CIOs:

-  Typically own responsibility for just over half their agency’s IT portfolio

-  Commonly have other day jobs - double hatting as CHCOs and the like

-  Only report to the agency heads at half the agencies - that’s no seat at the table in the C suite

Additionally, CIOs lack critical control over hiring and firing of their IT workforce. As Spiderman says - with great power comes great responsibility. Seems that one cuts both ways. It’s no wonder that the typical Federal CIO tenure is just two years.

So, what to do to fix it? Take a leaf out of the late Steve Jobs’ book - or iPad, as the case may be. Simpler is better. How about working between the Federal CIO and CFO Councils to establish some real metrics to assess the performance of CIOs? Don’t worry, I’m not talking about that IT Dashboard thing. Here’s a great opportunity to connect with private industry to understand how companies benchmark IT performance. Perhaps it’s time to focus on investing in IT to cut the cost of government? Then give CIOs their due, pay them accordingly - and here’s the kicker, hold them accountable for their successes and failures.

As Canada looks at establishing one shared services IT department for the whole Maple Leaf, isn’t it time our CIOs got some respect? The Hill needs to bang some heads together and implement the laws on our books. If nobody’s in charge, maybe NASA should get in the IT acquisition business or GSA get into space ships?

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Posted: 10/12/2011 - 8 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

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FDCCI - Is the Price Right?

Two blogs this week. Focus on Data Center Consolidation savings. You can read the consolidated version now, and the built out version later - if it takes your fancy.
 
Snapshot - Come on Down
OMB published agencies’ data center consolidation plans on October 7 - all but DoD, who’s AWOL. More interesting than the plans - the savings numbers. Vivek Kundra championed FDCCI as the treasure chest to “pimp” Uncle Sam’s IT ride. So, how much will we save in 2011? Drum roll. $14.613 million. That’s 0.183 percent of the Fed IT budget. If that’s all you have time for, that’s the net up front. Thanks for playing FDCCI, the price is right. But, if you have time, think you’ll find it worthwhile to read more - to get the bigger story.
 
Big Picture - Bonus Round
Okay, here’s installment two, for those of you that would like to go to the bonus round. Before commenting on this savings number, let me go back to open government - since my last blog on the subject fueled such a reaction. Yes, OMB posted the FDCCI plans on time. But, wouldn’t it be a good idea to post a chart with agencies’ net savings up front as well as a progress on closing data centers?
 
I arrived at the savings figure by opening each agency’s report and hunting through for section six, where the agencies break out progress and savings. Or more correctly, some agencies break out their progress and savings. Many agencies did not even include section six - or their information was unintelligible. Might I be so bold as to call for a “Consolidated Consolidation Report?” It took some hours to piece together the data. People visiting OMB’s site could be forgiven for thinking OMB is not working hard to showcase the largess realized from FDCCI…
 
Here’s a rundown of who did what from my review of the reports.
 
How the savings break down:
- Agriculture $4.2M
- EPA $1.5M
- Justice $1.92M
- NASA $0.337M
- State $1.656M
- Transportation $5M
Total: $14.613 million
 
A series of agencies reported progress, but no savings:
- HHS
- Labor
- Treasury
- USAID
 
Still others failed to report progress or savings – many missing section six altogether or their responses were unintelligible to me:
- Commerce
- Education
- GSA – included progress and savings, but completely nonsensical
- HUD
- OPM
- VA – included a lot of interesting futures
 
Some were required to report, but do not have any data center consolidations planned for years to come:
- NRC
- NSF
 
And, last but certainly not least, one department failed to report for duty, posting a note that it would fall in, in 30 days:
-  DoD
 
Now, you may be asking why did Vivek Kundra make so much noise about FDCCI? Wonder what the Wall Street Journal would make of these numbers after expending salacious ink - and the number was only 137 back then? Wouldn’t one expect bigger savings given OMB’s announcement that we plan to close 373 data centers by the end of 2012?
 
Let’s play with the numbers associated with these shuttered or condemned data centers. 373 is approximately 20 percent of the total population of Federal data centers - OMB pegged that number at 2,094. Data centers are expensive. Industry estimates put data center costs at between 10 and 50 percent of Uncle Sam’s total IT spend. Okay, I’m not great at mathematics - so let’s go with 50 percent, it makes the sums easier. If total Fed IT spend is $80 billion, and data centers are half the IT spend, that’s $40 billion. If we’ve closed 20 percent of the data centers, then we should save $8 billion. That number seems huge next to the $14 million in savings we realized from FDCCI in 2011. Even if data centers are just 10 percent of Uncle Sam’s IT purse, closing 20 percent of data centers points to $2 billion in savings.
 
To be sure, the financial savings are underwhelming and the quality of the reporting is not exactly first rate. There is some very interesting information in the plans - and they bear closer study, if you have the time to dig in - put on a pot of coffee.
 
The raw truth here is that data center consolidation is not easy. It’s not a quick fix. And, it’s not cheap. The recipe for success is complex. And agencies’ progress against super aggressive goals with zero funding to meet the mandate is precisely what one would expect. Poor.
 
This excerpt from the Department of Transportation plan says it all:
 
“It is a long process to identify possible consolidations, present them to management and then to users, and then work the technical side of migration. DOT has found that fast tracking these consolidations can lead to confusion from affected management and users and not enough time for technical issues to be resolved. Strategic communications is a very important activity to help gain stakeholders and to ensure users are aware of the technical activities that will affect them. One major activity that affects the schedule of consolidations is application mapping. Application mapping is a very difficult and time consuming activity, but it is also a step that cannot be skipped for successful completion of migrations. DOT has learned to concentrate on this step and validate data collected more than once. 
 
“Migration costs have been more than was first reported. The complexity of the technical migration issues have caused schedule delays and increased costs in some migrations.”
 
Data center leads across government are struggling with this unfunded mandate. They’re having challenges putting together realistic plans. OMB’s goals and timelines are unrealistic. That’s the feedback from the Federal data center leads participating in the MeriTalk Data Center Exchange. Is data center consolidation a good idea - of course it is. But, we will not realize savings without the required strategic investments. It’s not necessarily about reducing the cost of IT, but rather about leveraging IT to increase the efficiency of government. Now’s the time for OMB to work with the agencies to build a realistic Data Center Efficiency plan to deliver real results on government’s bottom line. As GAO is working on an audit of the 25-Point Plan, perhaps now is the time for OMB to stop counting data centers and focus on more meaningful efficiency metrics - deal or no deal? 
Interested in more data on FDCCI?  Check out these research studies:

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Posted: 10/5/2011 - 6 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

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Worth a Read
 
Cup of IT. Short. Cheeky. Now he’s writing about a book? Non sequitur. Can this idiot even read? What’s worse, writing about book called “Transformational Trends in Governance and Democracy”. Now that's a title that’d make an insomniac yawn. But, don’t judge a book by its cover. This tome from NAPA bravely takes on the difficult issues confronting our society. Pointedly, it considers the relationship of the citizen to the government. The Obama inspiration is dead - this book gives new hope to the American dream.
 
Don’t worry, I’m not talking Tea-Party-nut jobbery. The book opens with alarming stats to frame America’s crisis - by 2019 Medicare will fail elderly Americans. By 2080 the cost of government will be three times its revenue. But it’s not all tomorrows – interest on our national debt in FY2009 equaled the budgets for Education, Energy, HHS, DHS, HUD, Interior, and Justice combined.
 
The book paints a vision of options for new kinds of government - distributed, outcome-focused, and market-aligned. I would direct you to the first chapter - it’s easy to find - inked by our own Alan Balutis - the man with the best manners in Federal IT and an unhealthy penchant for dairy products - Terry Buss - a view from down under - and Dwight Ink.
 
Look past the chapter’s cliché 3.0 title - please. Like a Marxian manifesto, it lays bare the drivers for change, but mercifully skips drawing any inevitable conclusions - “whether American governance is hopelessly broken or simply needs re-engineering remains an open question.” The gang of three square off against the bi-polar disorder that has lobotomized our government in the last decade or so. If D.C. is Rome, is this the plebes and the patricians? Are war and circus - read scandals - the only distractions from our problems? The fellas provide an armchair review of the major events dating back to Clinton - and reverberations of the Reagan administration.
 
Okay, this is not a beach read - but it’s October. For those of you that have lost interest in government - and even think that democracy itself may make it impossible to address any of the significant problems facing our nation - this book’s worth a read. It certainly made this cynic think...

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