Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel speaks with InformationWeek Government Editor John Foley at Thursday’s event.
Having launched a formal strategy on the concept yesterday, federal CIO Steven VanRoekel offered examples Thursday morning of how shared IT services will free up valuable resources across government agencies.
Speaking at the Government IT Leadership Forum at Washington, D.C.’s Newseum, VanRoekel expanded on the announcement made late Wednesday.
“We spend a lot of time just managing commodity IT,” he said. “USDA took 21 different email systems and teams managing those systems and took the bold cultural step of consolidating to one cloud based system at a third of the cost. In the private sector, That would be unthinkable to have 21 email systems.
“This will free up people resources to put them on more important tasks,” he said. “That’s how you innovate on a flat budget.”
The strategy, he said, involves data storage, commodity IT, infrastructure and myriad solutions based on cloud computing.
“It’s a crawl-walk-run concept across the landscape of government,” VanRoekel added. “We break down the cultural walls first. We’ll work on commodity and then move on to more lines of business.”
Under the strategy, each agency will assess current IT services, develop a plan, and collaborate with VanRoekel on specifics and budget issues.
“It’s not a one-size-fits-all model,” he said. “It’s a framework by which we’ll have a discussion. … Our lowest hanging fruit right now is optimizing each agency by itself. … I will be as enthusiastic about taking those savings and pouring them back into the missions of the agencies.”
VanRoekel also said he has dispatched problem-solving “SWAT” teams for agencies without necessary IT resources. The teams are assembled with federal workers throughout government in various areas of appropriate expertise to drop in on a project to assess and guide agencies toward a solution. So far, the effort has been reactive and ad hoc, but he envisions a more proactive approach in future with regard to advancing federal IT systems.
VanRoekel said cultural change is a stumbling block in his vision, but that he looks forward to “injecting new people” into agencies to facilitate that process through the White House’s technology fellows program. He said hiring from a pool of applicants in the program will begin next month.
“We will drive down costs we while increase revenue. That’s what they do in business. In government … there’s this idea that if I generate savings you’re just going to take it away from me. For me, it’s striking the careful balance between inspire and push. Because we know IT can drive efficiency and productivity, we can import a cut-and-invest strategy.”
At the same time, he acknowledged innovation requires capital investment.
“Data center consolidation is a classic example,” he said. “That takes money and time and people. The out years is when you get the benefit of that. … The Department of Defense has seen $300 million savings. Because of it’s size you are seeing savings and you will continue to see that. We’re at sort of the leading edge of the hockey stick on that savings.”
DoD CIO Teri Takai, who also spoke at Thursday’s forum, said she embraces VanRoekel’s strategy and DoD’s future plans follow suit.
“We operate in siloed way right now,” Takai said. “So the idea … is to think enterpsrise going in. To build on data center consolitin and bring together computing power and data as well.”
She added: “We believe in the direction Steve’s going. One of my major challenges is … I have to get sharing to happen across DoD. We need to get Army comfortable with operating out of a DISA data center and vice versa. … Shared services is really beyond data centers…we’re looking to define a set of enterprise services.”
To that end, she’s launched an enterprise IT strategy and roadmap that goes beyond data center consolidation and an enterprise email effort within military branches to a broader set of initiatives involving cloud computing, cybersecurity and identity management. The agency is also working on mobile device strategy and mobile app store.
Also at Thursday’s forum, the FBI reported near completion of it’s agile systems development as well as driving enterprise architecture and data integration. And US Intelligence Community CIO Al Tarasiuk said he’s working on trimming up to a quarter of the budget for IC agencies with shared services through shared services, reducing networks and implementing cloud computing.
Tarasiuk declined to provide a firm timetable or shared precise savings, but said much of his plans will move forward in the next five years and net “big, big savings.”
“If we take the costs out of IT they can go into the mission,” he said. “We’re changing the focus of our security model from network centric to data centric. It will take many years to get there.”
He added: “Our goal is to do in common the things that we commonly do. … We no longer need five engineering staffs working on desktops. We only need one.”