Former Fed CIO: Lessons Learned
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Vivek Kundra become the first Federal CIO in 2009 and remained in that position untill 2011. 

 

Many federal senior IT professionals praised the former federal CIO for making a significant impact during his tenure at the Office of Management and Budget. In addition he received good grades his vision in advancing the government IT community. This is mostly likely directly attributable to his data center consolidation plans as well as his idea to realize substantial cost savings by embracing cloud computing at all levels of the federal government.

 

We recently wrote however about the fact that Vivek Kundra's tenure as CIO is marked by his questionable leadership skills (according to his peers in the federal government.)

 

Recently Kundra gave a keynote address at the DellWorld 2011 Conference. His speech was called “Harnessing Technology to Innovate at Scale" and it drew a large crowd that listened intently to what the former Fed CIO had to reveal about his experience working for the Obama administration.

 

Problems

 

Here are some of the highlights from Kundra's speech:

 

 

1. The Federal CIO had an $80 billion dollar annual budget to support all federal government functions in all agencies both domestically and internationally and owned over 12,000 major business applications that support functions like Medicare, Social Security reimbursement, and the IRS. 

 

2. The Federal government had invested over $600 billion in the prior 10 years to modernize systems. He was responsible for $27 billion of I.T. projects that were  years behind schedule and hundreds of millions of dollars over budget. For example, the Department of Defense spent 10 years and $850 million on an ERP system that still was not operational.

 

3. No one on Kundra’s project team had mobile devices. He asked why and learned that mobile devices were allocated to government worker based on office size and seniority so the people on Kundra’s project team were not able to procure any mobile devices.

 

4. Most government CIOs were focused on creating I.T. infrastructure, not adding value. The federal government had grown from 432 data centers to over 2000 in a 10 year period. Perhaps most interesting is the fact that the average CPU cycle utilization in each data center was under 27%; average storage utilization was under 40%. These levels of capacity utilization are very wasteful. Kundra believes that, ultimately, the government could be very well served with three “digital Fort Knox” data centers.

 

5. The US spent $133 million over six years on reports offering opinions about cyber security vulnerabilities—no work was performed to bolster cyber security vulnerabilities within that investment. Kundra shifted the teams to actual testing to determine security vulnerabilities.

 

During his first months at the helm, Kundra experienced the Federal government inefficiencies first hand. As a result Kundra defined four major priorities for the Federal IT departments: 

 

(1) make sure the taxpayers were getting value for the $80 billion investment and that the investment was being managed, (2) finding and fixing inefficiencies in the infrastructure spend which represented $27 billion annually, (3) make certain security was a top priority as new threats emerged, and, (4) ensure the Federal government was actually creating a more open and transparent in it's operations.

 

Solutions.

 

Kundra instituted the following changes in the management of the Federal IT Systems to correct the many inefficiencies he identified:

 

1. Kundra will permit no new data centers to be opened and he was committed to shutting down 800 data centers by 2015.

 

2. Kundra looked at innovation in the private sector and decided on a “cloud first” strategy. The federal government’s shift in strategy to the cloud saves taxpayers $5 billion annually at this time.

 

3. By shifting the focus away from infrastructure Kundra enabled senior Federal leaders to think about innovating to better support a more open, transparent system. This will enable these teams to do more for those who benefit from the technology being put in place.

 

4. He asked the questions, “How do you bring the same Darwinian pressure to innovate enterprise IT at the same pace as the consumer space? Disruptions occur daily in the world of consumers; why not in government?” “America Competes” allows every agency in the federal government to issue challenges and award prizes up to $50 million for solutions to real problems. The impact: an explosion of business applications were developed in response to better serve the American people and the federal agencies. For example, a product recall application allows a person to easily determine if a specific product has been recalled.

 

5. Kundra mandated the improvement of policies and procedures to battle cyber attacks which he sees as a top priority. He said, “You are never done guarding the nation’s data from attack.”

 

Overall he was an innovator in the Federal government and a pretty good leader even if many of his programs came up short of expected goals.

 

 

Related Content 

 

Fed CIO: Embrace XML, Virtualization and Agile In IT Planning

Former Fed CIO Kundra's Leadership Just OK




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