Feds Look to Tech to Improve Customer Service, Focus on Getting It Right

Susan Hall
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Leading Authors Share Their IT Management Expertise

Leading expert advice on IT management issues.

My colleague Ann All last week wrote about her frustration with local government processes for resolving a traffic citation. Of President Obama's executive order for federal agencies to "redouble" their efforts to use technology to improve customer service, she said, "It's about time." Obviously, there's room for improvement at all levels of government.

 

According to federal market analyst INPUT, U.S. government spending on vendor-furnished information systems and services will rise from $85.8 billion in 2010 to $111.6 billion by 2015. It's predicting a compound annual growth rate of 5.4 percent - despite all the pressure to cut government spending.

 

Deniece Peterson, manager of federal industry analysis at INPUT, told Federal News Radio that federal agencies increasingly rely on:

... different types of software to help improve how federal employees do their jobs. The work force has been pretty flat over the past decade or so, and in order to meet the growth in need to deliver citizen services and meet mission needs, technology has really stepped into that space.

Ann pointed to an optimistic review at Washington Technology of the Obama administration's 25-point IT reform plan. As part of the reform, the government is creating roles called "IT program manager," senior executives with broad authority to manage major technology development initiatives. U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra has called program management a particular problem and said many federal managers are underqualified for these positions, according to InformationWeek.


 

One response has been to set up a best practices platform for agency CIOs to serve as a central source of information on improving IT operations. It includes case studies, lessons learned and other tools. One example available for download is how the U.S. Department of Agriculture consolidated 21 email systems and moved to the cloud.

 

Meanwhile, Department of Homeland Security CIO Richard Spires has been blogging at CIO.gov about improving IT programs. In his most recent post, he advocates for an active program governance board that meets at least monthly for any ongoing project.

 

He writes:

Complex IT systems encompass at least a half-dozen stakeholder organizations that must be synchronized, including the strategy organization, the business or mission owner of the system, IT, finance, procurement, security, and privacy. Ensuring all key stakeholders are involved in key decisions is an essential element to assuring genuine alignment.

This takes nothing away from the program manager, he says, but rather:

This single path streamlines decision-making and provides greater flexibility to address change as demands on investments evolve. This is especially crucial for programs experiencing issues as well as changes that may affect a portfolio or the enterprise.


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