Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Federal IT community leaders recently attended a White House briefing about how agencies are improving the processes by which they buy and use technology to achieve their mission goals. The meeting was facilitated the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)

Federal CIO Vivek Kundra announced the Administration’s 25-point plan for IT reform last December.  Since that time, and much attention has focused on reviewing the plan’s elements (including in this blog), and OMB has led an active implementation agenda to achieve the milestones laid out by the plan.  Last week’s White House meeting with IT leaders added an important new component to agency activities – an Executive order from President Obama that seeks to enhance the government's customer service delivery through technology, entitled "Streamlining Service Delivery and Improving Customer Service."  

The Executive Order on customer services updates EO 12862, issued by the Clinton Administration’s National Performance Review (NPR) in 1993.  The Order says that within 180 days, each agency must: 
(a)  establish one major initiative that will use technology to improve the customer experience;
(b)  establish mechanisms to solicit customer feedback on Government services, and use such feedback regularly to make service improvements;
(c)  set clear customer service standards and expectations, including, where appropriate, performance goals for customer service required by the GPRA (Government Performance and Results) Modernization Act of 2010  (the subject of numerous postings) ;
(d)  improve the customer experience by adopting proven customer service best practices and coordinating across service channels (online, phone, in-person, and mail services);
(e)  streamline agency processes to reduce costs and accelerate delivery, while reducing the need for customer calls and inquiries; and
(f)  identify ways to use innovative technologies to accomplish the customer service activities above, thereby lowering costs, decreasing service delivery times, and improving the customer experience.

Each agency is also required to post their new plan on their Open Government web page, as well as to work as closely as possible with the Federal Chief Performance Officer in developing and implementing all activities outlined in this Executive Order.

The Order expands IT reforms from the more technical -- including cloud, shared services, and sound management and governance – into the realm of constituent services, which can help build support among individuals who benefit from government programs.  Agencies can use the Order as a Driver to improve outcomes at lower cost through technology, in order to bring about the kind of productivity gains seen in the private sector for decades.

Other highlights from the OMB Briefing, and who said it, follow.

Jeff Zients, Federal Chief Performance Officer

  • Noted that contract spending is down $10-$15bn from last year.
  • Emphasized their work on reducing improper payments -- achieved $700M in recovery in 2010 and avoided more than $1B.
  • Noted significant cost reductions and service improvement from going to web-based customer self-service models

Zients was positive about progress going forward, citing (with humor) the government’s "Late mover advantage" in which agencies learn from successes and failures of others who have gone before. 

Vivek Kundra, Federal CIO (see slides). 

  • Focused on progress in the 25-point plan – all initiatives are done or on track, except two where Congress needs to take action regarding consolidating IT budgets and giving CIOs operational control of infrastructure.
  • Mentioned shutting down 137 data centers by end of year – cited low utilization of existing data centers as a key driver
  • Gave a Cloud update:  GSA will soon issue a solicitation on behalf of 15 agencies for cloud-based e-mail and collaboration accounts; and OMB is targeting the cloud as a basis to streamline human resource and financial management systems. 
  • Noted progress on IT Dashboard, as well as TechStat meetings and other reviews of agency IT systems.
  • Announced that the CIO Council is on point identifying private sector innovation, and matching that with interested agencies.

OMB’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion with Deputy Secretaries Dan Ponemon (Energy) and Kathleen Merrigan (USDA), and CIOs Roger Baker (VA) and Richard Spires (DHS).  All focused on different elements of the 25-point plan being implemented at their agencies.

Collectively, the cross-government activities discussed at the OMB Briefing demonstrate that though milestones remain, the IT Reform Agenda is moving forward at a good clip.