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Feds' Progress on IT Transformation Provides Valuable Lessons

by Dave Hannon

December 29, 2011

By Dave Hannon


When the U.S. government announced a plan to overhaul its IT infrastructure and reduce data centers by putting more of its services in the cloud, I have to admit I was skeptical. I really wasn't sure that the U.S. government was the right "organization" to be pursuing a cloud strategy and I was concerned that it had more to do with courting corporate software providers than pursuing cost savings.

And when the Federal CIO Vivek Kundra skipped town in June to take a cushy Ivy League gig, I was sure that the entire IT transformation plan would disappear into the clouds. (I even blogged about it here).

But this week, the new Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel released a detailed update on the progress so far (called "Doing More with Less Through Strategic Investments") and, frankly, I'm surprised. Yes, I'm surprised by the title of the report for starters (not what you expect from the Feds), but I'm really surprised by the progress made and the detail with which it's documented in this report.

Steven VanRoekelFor example, according the report the Federal government has eliminated more than 50 legacy systems to date as part of this plan and migrated 40 services to the cloud. The U.S. Air Force now has its CRM system in the cloud, which has reduced call volumes by 23% and cut response time from 2-4 minutes to 2-4 SECONDS. (How the USAF uses CRM is a blog for another day. Who exactly is the "customer" in that scenario?)

The report even identifies a few parts of the project that are behind schedule and lists some of the challenges faced so far. Don't these guys know it's an election year? Somewhere there's a White House communications aide trying desperately to move those bullet points out of the "Behind Schedule" column.

The report also says that, going forward, the government plans to create a "government-wide marketplace for data center availability" and increase mobility in the next 18 months. (To read about the data center consolidation plan specifically, see VanRoekel's blog post here.)

Now, maybe I'm easily impressed, but I would say these results show that not only has the plan continued forward under the new CIO, but the plan is being monitored and tracked very efficiently. Without any real detailed knowledge of this project, I can read this report and understand at a high level what has been done so far, what the results have been, and what the next steps and priorities are.

And there's a good lesson there for corporate IT organizations as well. As important as it is to focus on the project details while carrying out an IT transformation, it is also very important for the IT organization to set clear goals from the beginning, monitor the progress against those goals realistically, and PRESENT THOSE RESULTS TO STAKEHOLDERS periodically. Because, had I not stumbled across this report, I would have assumed this project had been lost in the government abyss. But after reading it, I'm impressed and--if I were an executive sponsor of this project--I'd be much more likely to support the next steps and lobby for support internally.

Yeah, a lesson from the Feds on internal selling. Who would have thought it?

Of course, I'd love to get your thoughts on the update report specifically. Is this something you've done for your IT projects? If so, what are the benefits of creating such a report? 

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