DC's Newest CTO and the Impact of Legacy

Loretta Prencipe

No one ever said the CTO's job was easy. Recent CTO moves really raise questions of the impact of legacy (as opposed to legacy systems).
Notably, Vivek Kundra came from the private sector to the head the District of Columbia's Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO). Kundra left D.C. to join the Obama administration as Federal CIO in March. D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty appointed Chris Wiley as interim CTO. (See the OCTO's org chart here.  An interesting read on its own.)
Now, Fenty has once again turned to the private sector to fix what ails the District of Columbia. Fenty picked outsider and entreprenuer Bryan Sivak, 34, founder of Silcon Valley-based InQuira, to be the District's newest chief technology officer.

As the District's CTO, Sivak will oversee a $175 million IT budget for the OCTO, which provides IT operations and support for more than 26,000 city employees. The nation's capital has a population of 588,000.
Sivak comes into an office that Computerworld calls "arguably one of the most visible, progressive -- and troubled" agencies.

The new CTO joins a technology operation has faced some difficulties this year. A week after Kundra was appointed to the White House post, federal law enforcement officials filed bribery charges against Yusuf Acar, the department's acting chief security officer, in connection with what prosecutors alleged were a number of schemes developed to defraud the District of thousands of dollars. The scheme involved adding non-existent employees, or "ghost workers", to the city payroll. Payments were allegedly made to those "workers."

To be fair, Kundra was not implicated. During his tenure, Kundra worked to make the D.C. IT process more transparent and to improve (of course) servces to District residents through technology.
As part of that, Kundra launched Apps for Democracy, a contest to build Web-based applications using the city's 200-plus data feeds. A total of 47 apps were submitted, worth an estimated $2.6 million in avoided contract costs. Winners included a Facebook app that appears designed to allow kvetching about DC services. The district's OCTO announced a second round of winners in September 2009.

Sivak, who is used to the pace and thinking of Silicon Valley, is coming into an agency that was in midst of transformation, hit with scandal and, well, part of a larger municipal organization that has its own legacy issues. These issues affect the business and culture of the D.C. government.
What this means is that Sivak is facing legacy on many levels -- legacy apps, legacy data, but also the legacy of culture and broken business within the D.C. goverment.  Fenty and Kundra were working to reengineer the District.
Are we looking at the future of Sivak's legacy? What role does legacy have in your work? In your career?

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