OMB sets Aug. 7 for governmentwide IT project analysis

Wednesday - 7/22/2009, 6:35am EDT

WFED's Jason Miller

Federal CIO Kundra calls for aggressive focus on project management.

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By Jason Miller
Executive Editor FederalNewsRadio

Federal chief information officer Vivek Kundra has set Aug. 7 as the day of reckoning for agency information technology projects.

On that day, the Chief Information Officer's Council will evaluate IT projects from a governmentwide standpoint using the new Information Technology Dashboard tool.

"We will analyze portfolios across agencies to understand macro trends," says Kundra in an interview with FederalNewsRadio Tuesday after his speech at the Open Government and Innovations conference sponsored by 1105 Government Information Group in Washington.

"This will require first CIOs who may not have had power before to collect information and to vet the information. There is not a target in the number of projects that will be put on hold, but we want to make decisions that make sense."

In many ways, the CIO Council will do what the Veterans Affairs Department did last week when it temporarily halted 45 troubled technology projects based partly on information in the dashboard.

Kundra says VA's experience and the governmentwide initiative is all about having the right data and making decisions "grounded in evidence."

He would not say if other agencies are following VA's footsteps and temporarily stopping a significant number of troubled projects.

Kundra did say, however, that the goal is to fix historical problems.

"The approach every agency should take is to have an aggressive focus on project management and really distilling the complexities that have existed and try to figure out what is going on," he says. "Since we've launched the dashboard [June 30] , the data quality has been improving every day because CIOs are going there, looking at milestones and looking at budget figures."

Kundra says the analysis and potentially delay in projects is but one goal of the dashboard. He says another major objective is to empower CIOs.

During the Year 2000 effort, information resource managers and CIOs consistently where meeting with secretaries, deputy secretaries and chiefs of staff because of the importance of the issue. Kundra says over the past nine years, the CIOs slowly have been pushed out of these meetings, and the administration wants to re-establish their importance.

"What we are doing with White House meetings, we are making sure that the CIOs are part of those conversations so technology is seen as a lever to transform businesses and not as a separate entity that has nothing to do with how you run your organization," he says.

He says those meetings coupled with the dashboard, the transparency initiatives as well as the technology programs the administration is launching is putting CIOs and technology at a higher level in organizations.

"We are seeing an organic move up of those CIOs at those chief of staff meetings where they are talking about technology and performance outcomes," Kundra says. "And now with Jeffrey Zients here as the chief performance officer, the technology agenda is central to what we are trying to do."

In fact, Zients, federal chief technology officer Aneesh Chopra and Kundra are meeting with agencies to talk about how important it is to make sure CIOS are at the decision-making table, and making sure cabinet secretaries know what their agency's IT investments look like.

Kundra also is trying to address a long standing problem where bureau CIOs have more power or more autonomy than the departmentwide CIO.

"I've been meeting with each dept CIOs and bureau CIOs and that is creating an environment so people understand the goal is to manage technology at the departmental level," he says.

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On the Web:

OMB - IT Dashboard

FederalNewsRadio - VA to offer more public details on paused projects

FederalNewsRadio - IT dashboard pushes CIOs back to the front and center

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