(Note: This blog post is cross-posted at The GSA Blog.)
Welcome back to The GSA Blog! I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about my philosophy as CIO as well as my vision for the future.
When I arrived at GSA, the IT organization was laying the planning foundation for a major transition. GSA’s CIO and Deputy CIO (Casey Coleman and Sonny Hashmi) and the rest of the IT executive team began the challenging work of bringing all of the agency’s IT people, process and technology into one organization, now called GSA IT. This involved restructuring and realigning resources and budgets into a vastly more streamlined, efficient organization. I was proud to be a part of this executive team that planned the consolidation, affected its implementation and kept that momentum going by laying out a long term strategy and vision for the new organization. We developed the GSA IT Maturity Model which evolved the organization to be increasingly efficient, strategic, and a thought leader in the federal IT space. As a part of the executive team that created this shared vision, it facilitated my transition into the role of CIO. I am able to carry on the momentum created by the GSA IT consolidation and do not see the need to make wholesale shifts in the strategic mission of the organization.
My Philosophy as CIO
My philosophy as CIO is to run IT as a business. The value of IT is as a business enabler, a transformation catalyst and a foundational element in business innovation. CIOs that are active participants in business mission development and delivery provide tremendous value to the organization they serve by using technology solutions to optimize and transform business.
As GSA’s CIO, I am continuing to build on the foundation laid forth by my predecessors in ensuring GSA IT is providing better service at a greater value and that we continue to be the strategic thought leaders in Innovation, Intuitive and Integrated (I3) solutions. In addition, I am steering GSA IT to run like a business, to show the value of IT and to tie everything we do in GSA IT to positive business outcomes and realizing positive ROI for our customers. This enables GSA IT to be active participants in GSA’s business mission, helping GSA solve business problems while showing strong business process, transformational technology and security returns on the taxpayer dollars we invest.
Looking ahead at some of our new priorities and what I’m hoping to accomplish over the next 6-9 months, I am focused on completing the good work that we started and maximizing the outcome of consolidation. Rationalizing infrastructure and applications, modernizing the acquisition process, updating government-wide systems such as USA.gov, modernizing the systems in our public buildings and shifting to an enterprise data management and predictive analytics capability so that we can empower decision makers with the real-time, cross discipline information they need to make good and timely decisions.
Open Source Policy: The GSA open-source strategy is still in effect and I will continue to look for ways to double-down on this strategy. It was a good idea a year ago and remains a good idea now. Any solution developed using taxpayer dollars should be in the taxpayer’s domain (open source) and the code we develop should be shared under an open license so others may benefit from it. In addition, we will give priority to using open source software as we design new solutions.
Jedi Council: Build on and enhance the capabilities and (business/technology) collaborative nature of the GSA Jedi Council. While the Jedi were not really focused on shadow IT, utilizing the considerable tech talent that is embedded in the GSA businesses is one of the benefits. The Jedi Council is really about engaging the business community in the shared vision of delivering IT that is responsive to the business need and co-opting them into the agile delivery of technology to solve their mission needs. A classic snapshot into the collaborative nature of how I like to run an IT shop.
VDI: Virtual desktops are a critical component of our mobility strategy. Being able to access a GSA desktop and resources from any computer enables huge leaps in productivity and collaboration. By the end of 2015, GSA had a goal of getting 75% of employees using VDI. By the end of calendar ‘15 we will have 100% of GSA customers able to access VDI.
VMO: The GSA IT VMO is now the single point of contact for IT vendor management, assistance, procurements, and relationship management driving cost savings while providing value back to the organization. We are not able to successfully complete the GSA or GSA IT mission without our industry partners. Our VMO provides a critical part of the framework that allows us to intelligently and efficiently communicate our needs, goals and mission objectives to our industry partners in a fair and equitable way. Industry hears what they need to successfully interact with GSA IT and GSA IT has a managed forum to effectively get that message out.
Consolidation: As part of a Top to Bottom Review in 2012, GSA IT brought all of the agency’s IT functions into one organization, now called GSA IT. Throughout the IT consolidation GSA IT found opportunities to streamline the IT environment, reduce duplication, simplify technology and foster an environment of technology reuse and collaborative sharing. As a result of consolidating, we were able to do more with less and were able to reduce IT costs by approximately 20% from FY13 to FY15 across GSA IT. As we achieved efficiencies, we shifted resources from running legacy applications and infrastructure to investing in efforts to grow and transform GSA’s business IT systems.
GSA’s Current Position on FITARA: Due to our hard work with the IT consolidation, GSA is now very well positioned to meet the needs of FITARA. As CIO, I oversee our IT spend and all senior IT leaders are direct line reports to me. Through our governance process, all IT funds, including reprogramming, are reviewed by IT governance for approval. In addition we use our Zero Based Budget (ZBB) approach leveraged for GSA IT budget formulation and execution and have established the Vendor Management Office (VMO) to maximize the value of IT contracts. Our High risk and high dollar contracts reviewed at the investment review board (IRB).
GSA Labs: While GSA Labs shows as a simple web portal that allows the General Services Administration (GSA) toshare its cloud-based applications and utilities with other government agencies, it is really an organizational mindset. GSA Labs allows us to experiment with new, emerging or transformative technologies, to build code and do other innovative things as well as provides a secure space for agencies to collaborate and share their ideas, best practices, questions and code. It enables us to innovate and design outside the box and gives us an opportunity to focus on pressing and strategic solutions with the capability to fail fast and make low investment go/no go decisions. The lab facilitates the creation of minimally viable products (MVP’s) in initial sprints so that we can quickly assess their value and decided to continue to invest in the thought or choose to invest elsewhere. This is a critical piece of 21st century DevOps and a hallmark of the GSA IT way of “doing business”.
The role of the GSA CIO comes with a legacy of innovation and responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars. I intend to keep GSA IT headed in the direction that has made it the finest IT organization in the federal government and expand on the mission of delivering the greatest business value to our internal and external stakeholders as the ever changing technology landscape gives our agency more opportunities to lower costs, optimize and transform the business of GSA and bring increasing value to the federal agencies we serve.