'IT' reaches new, set-aside status

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), told Dan Gordon, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, to "stop talking in acronyms" at hearing held on May 25. Gordon had been talking about GWACs (governmentwide acquisition contracts) and other alphabet-soup terms.

"I get to say I-T, right?” Gordon asked to be sure before going ahead with a comment on information technology.

Posted by Matthew Weigelt on May 25, 2011 at 12:55 PM0 comments


Double Mint gum doesn't work in government

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), speaking on the topic of duplicative government programs, explains how the government and rubbery treats are not the same:

"Double your pleasure, double your fun' might work for chewing gum – but not for government programs paid for by American taxpayers," he said.

Posted by Matthew Weigelt on May 25, 2011 at 12:55 PM0 comments


Reporting from the Management of Change Conference

Dave McClure's intriGuinG job history

If Dave McClure ever leaves the General Services Administration, how can you predict where he'll go?

McClure, associate administrator of GSA's Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, told an audience at the American Council for Technology/Industry Advisory Council's Management of Change Conference in Hot Springs, Va., that there's a clue in his job history: The Government Accountability Office, the Council for Excellence in Government, Gartner, then GSA.

"Keep that in mind," he said. "Somewhere with a G in the name."

But who is the distributor cap?

McClure sounds more like an auto mechanic than a federal official when talking about GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies.

"I think of the office I head up as a spark plug for innovation," he said at the conference. Then he acknowledged the office's employees. "They really are the spark plugs for innovation. I'm just the mouthpiece talking about it."

Serious business

Simon Szykman, CIO at the Commerce Department, takes his role as a panel moderator seriously. In introducing a panel at the conference, he told the audience he wanted the discussion to provide real substance.

"If you walk out of here just having heard a string of words you're familiar with, then I haven't done my job as moderator," he said.

Striking a balance

Speaking to a mixed audience of people from government and industry can be tricky. Richard Spires, CIO at the Homeland Security Department, said there were way too many contractors when he arrived at DHS in 2009, then likely realized he was at risk of alienating the contractors in the audience.

Spires, who worked as a contractor before coming to government, asked them to consider the importance of having people on the customer side who know what they're doing. He said most contractors have been in the situation of saying, "'My customer just doesn't get it. I'm not going to be successful under this model, but I'm stuck.' I've been in that situation. I hate that situation."

Two-way street

Spires also said the CIO Council has partnered with the National Association of State CIOs to help federal and state government agencies share ideas.

"We believe strongly there's learning to go both ways" between the federal government and the states, said Spires, who serves as the council's vice chairman.

Posted by Michael Hardy on May 16, 2011 at 12:55 PM0 comments


Agencies share tips for better governance

Agencies have been improving their governance processes by ensuring that the relevant people at the agency are involved and learning to balance control with agility, according to members of a panel at the American Council for Technology/Industry Advisory Council's Management of Change Conference in Hot Springs, Va.

But the balancing act is not always easy, and progress sometimes comes slowly, the panelists added.

On the question of balancing innovation and agility with the kind of management and control good governance requires, the panelists expressed a desire to maintain both components.

"We shouldn't get ourselves where we have to choose either/or," said Joelle Hull, senior manager of the program governance office at the Internal Revenue Service.

Meanwhile, agencies are still trying to grasp the nuances of measuring risk, another component of good governance, she added. "I think we have a lot of the raw materials to do that kind of analysis, but we haven't quite figured out how to put the dots between them," she said.

Audience members asked how cloud computing fits in, given that such services move most of the technology off-site and put it under an outside provider's management. One audience member said a manager will sometimes choose to use a cloud solution and keep it secret from the CIO out of fear of disapproval.

When a manager chooses to use a cloud solution, Hull said, "all I care about is that they've registered it with me." That disclosure is important for transparency and technical support, she said. If the cloud solution is a known part of the IT environment, it can be accounted for.

"What a lot of people don't understand is that many of the restrictions put on agencies [regarding the use of cloud services] are not adopted by choice," said Giovanni Carnaroli, associate CIO at the Transportation Department. "There are a lot of impediments," such as licensing agreements an agency has signed, that forbid the use of cloud services.

Governance tends to run more smoothly when managers involve stakeholders from other parts of the organization, the panelists said. For IT, that could mean including an agency's chief financial officer and other budget officials.

"The single most important piece of bridge building I did was to get the CFO's office involved," Carnaroli said.

Posted by Michael Hardy on May 16, 2011 at 12:55 PM0 comments


Vince Lombardi and federal management

At a hearing May 10 on the implementation of the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act of 2010, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) evoked the memory of a legendary sports figure to add some color to his opening statement. 

Carper referred to a popular saying by Vince Lombardi – head coach of the Green Bay Packers during the 1960s and namesake of the NFL's championship trophy – to illustrate the importance of the new law’s requirement that federal agencies set measurable performance goals.

“Vince Lombardi use to say if you’re not keeping score, you’re just practicing,” Carper said. “We haven’t been doing a very good job of setting clear goals for federal programs. We’ve not been doing a very good job of keeping score either. It’s time we get into the game and play for real.”

Posted by Alyah Khan on May 11, 2011 at 12:55 PM0 comments


What Networx and Whitesnake have in common

How is a telecom contract like a 1980s hair-metal band?

In the case of Networx, it's because the platform was carried over from the model used in the 1980s, according to one attendee of  the Integrated Technology Service Networks Services Conference. The comment was a response to Karl Krumbholz, director of network service programs at the General Services Administration, who asked a panel of government officials and industry executives their thoughts on the Networx telecommunications contract and the overall transition from the old FTP 2001 system to the more modern platform.

In addition to the comparison to bands lke Whitesnake and Cinderella, Krumbholz got a range of answers. Some were supportive and others were blunt:

  • An enabler.
  • Comprehensive.
  • Modernization.
  • Potential.
  • Frustration.
  • Mature distributed offering.
  • Transformational.

We are pretty sure that if the setting had been less formal, some of the responses might have been more ... colorful. 

Tell us the word you associate with Networx. Or tell us about the time you went to a Whitesnake concert.

Posted by Matthew Weigelt on May 10, 2011 at 12:55 PM1 comments


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