With the announcement of Steven VanRoekel as the new Federal Chief Information Officer, many are wondering how the 25-point plan will continue, and what new initiatives will be evaluated as we embark on a new era of IT within the federal government.

Rather than to launch major new initiatives, Steven VanRoekel has already made it known that his main goal during his tenure as Federal CIO is to continue momentum surrounding the programs already in development by his predecessor, Vivek Kundra.

While this is the right way to move forward, it will be important for VanRoekel to focus on the initiatives that will have most impact on reducing IT costs by effectively overseeing larger IT programs that are not producing promised results. He should also consider creating new programs to address administration’s priority to bridge the productivity gap between private and public sectors.

Keeping up the legacy
In my opinion, the key to success for VanRoekel will be to utilize the strategies and actions that Kundra started that are gaining momentum. The 25-point plan brought a lot of innovations and business models to the Federal Government that have been successfully exploited by the private sector. In this context, the most important elements of the 25-point plan are cloud first, data center consolidation and strengthening of program management.

What VanRoekel must question is why agencies are not aggressively implementing cloud technologies and business models that allow agencies to get rid of antiquated infrastructures and systems.

Cloud computing is an irreversible trend in the federal government marketplace. However, we are just scratching the surface with cloud. What VanRoekel must question is why agencies are not aggressively implementing cloud technologies and business models that allow agencies to get rid of antiquated infrastructures and systems. While cloud solutions may not suit some agencies that need to handle classified information, for many others there is a significant opportunity to reduce costs without having to invest a significant amount of capital that government does not have today.

VanRoekel can leverage cloud success stories from agencies like GSA, which demonstrated that you could save 50% by replacing traditional email and collaboration environment with a cloud solution. There are other good examples from NASA, USDA, NOAA and DISA as well.

There needs to be more emphasis with the Data Center Consolidation Initiative. Data centers have been consolidated and cost effectively managed in the private sector for quite some time. VanRoekel needs to push leadership within agencies to address cultural and security barriers to show more progress with this initiative.

VanRoekel must also continue Kundra’s emphasis on strengthening program management with in the government. Continued investment in program management career path for government employees is very critical to achieving this goal. The 25-point does a very good job of identifying key issues and solutions to address this topic. It is promising to see that VanRoekel has already begun to focus on this area. In his first blog post as CIO, he noted that he planned to focus on “lowering operational costs, terminating and turning around troubled projects, and delivering meaningful functionality at a faster rate while enhancing the security of information systems.”

The right background
VanRoekel’s choice as the new Federal CIO is very interesting! I immediately thought of his background that will help him understand how to best achieve results with his major focus areas and IT initiatives. His time at Microsoft allowed him to see how technology innovations have changed the private sector and what were the factors that made Microsoft succeed competitively.

We can all agree that the development and adoption cycles move faster in the private sector than in the public sector. His private sector background gives him a very good platform to help provide the leadership and agility required with in the government environment especially with the speed to adopt cloud and data center consolidation initiatives.

On the other hand, his experience in government at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has allowed him to see why certain technology initiatives have not been successful. He’ll be able to use this experience to better promote initiatives, while the combination will allow him to push for productivity improvements to speed up the decision making process and reduce costs.

Productivity improvements
When taking a look at productivity improvements of government IT compared to the private sector, it is no surprise to anyone that government lags here significantly. The competitive pressures and a company’s ability to make money typically motivates the private sector. But there is a burning platform now for the Federal government with the deficit and economic crisis to achieve significant productivity improvements.

As mentioned before, VanRoekel will have to create new programs to launch this in a major way. He could certainly look to take advantage of the Consumerization of IT (CoIT) trend that is disrupting the way enterprises have been traditionally using technologies and tools to do their work.

The CoIT trend is changing the workplace technology landscape dramatically in the current global environment. For example employees do not need to have multiple devices to manage their work and personal lives. There are several solutions that provide secure access to enterprises from many mobile devices. VanRoekel will need to drive strategy and perhaps adopt new policies to take advantage of the CoIT.

VanRoekel should also look at Cloud Software As A Service (SaaS) solution that will agencies to “leap frog” productivity gains by automation of collaboration and decision making functions and features. It’s also important to consider what needs to be done to address the culture barriers within the government that come in the way of productivity gains.

Looking ahead
Kundra succeeded in his role because he was able to push very specific initiatives and took a leadership role, helping agencies solve some real operational and compliance issues.

VanRoekel has the opportunity to write the next successful chapter in government IT. Let us wish him the best!

PV Puvvada is vice president and managing partner for the Unisys Federal Civilian agencies group.