Outgoing Federal CIO: Focus On Execution - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Government // Leadership
03:15 PM
Connect Directly

Outgoing Federal CIO: Focus On Execution

The new federal CIO must focus on execution, not just policy, if the government's IT infrastructure and operations are to improve, says Vivek Kundra.

50 Most Influential Government CIOs
Slideshow: 50 Most Influential Government CIOs
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
If given the chance, outgoing federal CIO Vivek Kundra, who will leave his post next month for a stint at Harvard University, would advise his successor place a "huge focus" on execution of the IT agenda that's already been laid out during Kundra's two-year tenure.

"The blueprint has been laid out, but if you look at federal IT, it's not immune to the law of entropy--everything will move toward disorder," Kundra told the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology on Friday. "My advice would be to be aware of entropy and make sure that you're really, really focused on execution, not just on policies. You need to roll up your sleeves and get some work done."

Kundra, who was invited to speak to the advisory council to reflect on his tenure as federal CIO, will leave office with many of his plans still unfinished. Data center consolidation, cloud computing, continuous security monitoring, and open government each remain incomplete or uncertain, and Kundra's successor will need to pick up where Kundra left off, in the midst of a transition from planning to real execution.

In his remarks, he cautioned that too often, officials come into the White House with a belief that they're only going to focus on policy, and while that might lead to good ideas, it doesn't necessarily lead to accomplishments. "Every single day, I would sit down with agency CIOs and push them in that direction," Kundra said.

Looking forward, Kundra said that he anticipated a number of issues to remain on the horizon. One of the foremost of these issues is inflexible federal funding, a problem Kundra has had trouble making headway on in his discussions with Congress. He noted that it still can take two years for a project to go from conception to funding, a time frame that is far too long in the world of technology, where innovations come fast and furious and such delays can make projects obsolete before they ever get built.

Funding problems also factor in the failure of the federal government to take full advantage of a common data architecture, common IT platforms and unified fiber networks, Kundra said in response to a question from Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt. "The biggest problem, I always say, is how we fund IT," Kundra said. "That's a pretty serious issue."

Kundra pointed out that there was no congressional committee devoted to looking at federal IT spending across the board from a horizontal perspective, and that funding is instead appropriated bureau by bureau in such a way that agencies are typically forbidden from sharing funds.

Cybersecurity also factored heavily. For example, he said that the government hasn't yet figured out how to deal with data sovereignty--ownership of data and where it resides--and cloud computing. Many agencies currently want data only to be stored within U.S. borders, but, as Kundra noted, if every country approaches cloud computing the same way, that creates problems for the industry, which would be forced to try to host data in every country.

Kundra said more education is needed on the value and importance of continuous monitoring that focuses on security at the data level. "It's much more operational, but there needs to be more education," he said.

Kundra also criticized what he portrayed as a too-often limited pool of vendors for federal IT and IT services. "We almost have an IT cartel within federal IT," he said. "A lot of these companies benefit because they understand federal IT procurement, not because they're providing the best technology. How do we allow non-traditional companies to compete?"

At the 2011 InformationWeek 500 Conference, C-level executives from leading global companies will gather to discuss how their organizations are turbo-charging business execution and growth--how their accelerated enterprises manage cash more effectively, invest more wisely, delight customers more consistently, manage risk more profitably. The conference will feature a range of keynote, panel, and workshop sessions. St. Regis Monarch Beach, Calif., Sept. 11-13. Find out more and register.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
How GIS Data Can Help Fix Vaccine Distribution
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  2/17/2021
Graph-Based AI Enters the Enterprise Mainstream
James Kobielus, Tech Analyst, Consultant and Author,  2/16/2021
11 Ways DevOps Is Evolving
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  2/18/2021
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you.
Flash Poll