IT Performance Starts With Accountability
By all accounts, the federal sector is currently going through an IT Renaissance of sorts. With Agencies being asked to do more with less the focus naturally shifts to the one expenditure that has arguably been the most difficult to understand, manage, measure and monitor – IT. It’s clear that the federal sector has a unique set of issues to contend with that make managing, monitoring and measuring IT more daunting, but these same issues if viewed differently, could hold the key to improved IT performance.
Let’s take a look at the first - Accountability. Accountability can be described as the quality or state of being accountable; especially, an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions. Improved IT performance has to start with accountability, but who is to be held accountable in a bureaucratically defined enterprise with appointed leadership? The CIO? The Secretary? The CIO should ultimately be held accountable, but in order to be held accountable, the CIO needs to be empowered to hold others accountable. In the public sector, the CIO rarely has the authority required to have a significant impact on IT Performance. The empowerment of the CIO needs to start with control over IT budgets, but let’s remember that to whom much is given, much is expected. With control over the IT budgets and how the entire agency uses its IT resources, the CIO moniker may one day come to be known as “Career Ignited Overnight (CIO).”
The second issue facing the public sector is what I like to call "forced compliance” to well-meaning mandates from oversight arms of the Executive Branch. Let’s take a look at the most recent mandate from OMB, released on March 30, 2012, Implementing PortfolioStat. This most recent mandate has the goal of maximizing the return of American taxpayers’ investment in government IT by ensuring that it drives efficiency throughout the Federal Government. Isn’t this the purpose of Enterprise Architecture (EA) and to some degree, Capital Planning and Investment Control (CPIC)? Wouldn’t mature EA and CPIC processes generate the same results? I’m not suggesting that PortfolioStat and its little brother, Techstat aren’t without merit, but I am suggesting that sometimes all we need to do is focus on the basics of blocking and tackling in order to turn things around. The public sector is filled with dynamic and very smart people who do amazing work every day. I think it’s time that we remove the handcuffs of limited accountability and forced compliance and allow these talented individuals to come up with innovative and organic solutions to problems that they, and not oversight groups, are most intimately involved with and most able to solve…