What we want Federal CIO to do

Vivek Kundra’s Resume: Much Ado About Nothing?.

Vivek Kundra’s Resume: Much Ado About Nothing?
Andrea DiMaio
A MEMBER OF THE GARTNER BLOG NETWORK

August 14th, 2009 · 2 Comments

Over the last two days, the blogosphere has witnessed an interesting debate about whether Vivek Kundra’s resume is entirely accurate and sufficient for his current role as U.S. Federal CIO. It all started with a blog post by John Dvorak, where he casted doubts about Vivek’s academic achievements and his experience outside the public sector, followed by a post by Gauthan Nagesh on NextGov, shedding light on Vivek’s academic records and challenging Dvorak’s positions. It is quite intriguing to look at comments on either blog, as well as on many other blogs and online articles (just search for “Vivek Kundra qualifications” and you’ll find quite a lot).

Besides observing that politics are the same pretty much anywhere, with political appointees being regularly targeted by their opponents, the press and more recently by blogs (quite ironic in Vivek’s case, as he is a fervent believer in the power of Web 2.0), I am not really interested in whether these allegations are founded or not.

What I am more interested in is the fundamental question behind much of these discussions, i.e. is he qualified for the job at hand? In order to answer this question one has to looks at (1) the exact job description and (2) his achievements in related positions.

As far as (1), the job description in the White House’s announcement of Vivek’s appointment was:

The Federal Chief Information Officer directs the policy and strategic planning of federal information technology investments and is responsible for oversight of federal technology spending. The Federal CIO establishes and oversees enterprise architecture to ensure system interoperability and information sharing and ensure information security and privacy across the federal government. The CIO will also work closely with the Chief Technology Officer to advance the President’s technology agenda

Words are important here. He is not responsible for the federal IT budget (agencies are), but for its oversight. He directs policies and planning in order to advance the President’s technology agenda. Obama’s agenda clearly is about change in a number of areas, including IT as an important enabler of change. So I guess one of the most important trait the President was looking for was the ability to be a change agent.

Here comes (2), what did he do in the past to show such a trait? Well, I would argue that his achievements in D.C. as a CTO got the attention of many, ranging from how he changed portfolio management to how he made procurement more transparent up until his venture into crowdsourcing applications. He also got a number of recognitions during his tenure in D.C.

Those who have been reading this blog for some time know that I like Vivek and wished him well when he went into some trouble shortly after his appointment. I do not think that allegations or even facts about his qualifications as a student or an entrepreneur can deny his nature of change agent.

Where I believe challenges are for him as well as for the whole administration, is in deciding how to prioritize change, and how to find the right blend between continuity and innovation.

The risk is that in between open data, cloud computing, government 2.0, support to major programs like national broadband and health IT, Obama’s IT team finds itself chewing too much too soon.

If there is one thing that needs to be sorted out now, is how the CIO and CTO role relate to each other. A few days ago I watched an interview that CTO Aneesh Chopra gave to CNET, and could not get a straight answer to this, although the interviewers asked him a direct question. It is quite possible that roles, responsibilities and priorities have already been sorted out. But then, could we please know?

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Tags: e-government
2 RESPONSES SO FAR ↓
Jeff DePasquale // Aug 14, 2009 at 7:48 am

Net-net: I support Vivek as an Executive Partner under EXP. I find his approach to be refreshing and focused. Not sure what his paper qualifications are, but he’s demonstrated to our team his calculated ability to step outside the “beltway box”.

Srinidhi Boray // Aug 14, 2009 at 11:08 am

“”The Federal CIO establishes and oversees enterprise architecture to ensure system interoperability and information sharing and ensure information security and privacy across the federal government.””

Enterprise Architecture, no doubt is a mechanism that can help facilitate change. John Zachman, himself in his FEAC training mentions, that change a ’step function’ can be best anticipated via structures described in the Enterprise Architecture. And, EA is something that is learned over a period of time from experience. Unless, one is born savant.

In lack of architecture experience, most CIO’s in both federal and commercial sectors have made strategic decisions that have not manifested tactically with the desired results. There are numerous cases in the Federal. Should OIG in each agency work with motivation, then a lot of ill-conceived plans and associated ill spent millions of dollars can be purged. But who cares. Talking EA has become a fashion. And, planners lacking design mind introduce ‘empirical dilemma’, that is evident in the Federal Segment Architecture Methodology.

Within the CCA, A-130 Circular ‘information dissemination’ is just one portion of federal responsibility. Web 2.0, or any social networking although good, does not solve the country’s looming problem. Such as, the problem that HHS confronts – medicare, medicaid; that VA confronts – Veteran Patient Health Information system. So on and so forth, there are some very serious problem looming and they have no easy answers both in terms of budget planning and managing the architecture complexity. Here is where we want the Federal CIO to be active. Not dealing with superlatives and in the conceptual solutions domains. Government must be concerned with defining accurately the ‘problem domain’, not engage with ’solution domain’, but seek it instead.

Regards

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