It was a bit startling last month to hear that federal CIO Vivek Kundra will leave his post in August for a Harvard fellowship. But it's been entertaining and enlightening to hear his outspoken departing advice on federal IT, the essence of which appears to be: Throw away old ideas and start fresh.
Kundra made lots of comments during a talk given to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology last week. And what he sees as wrong with government IT could certainly be applied to enterprises, depending on whether they have ears to hear.
Kundra didn't hold back criticism of his current employer. "The model in Washington, especially in the federal government, has been throwing bodies at the problem. It hasn't been about introducing game-changing technology," he told the panel.
Instead of looking at the best technology for a particular goal, Kundra said that something close to an "IT cartel" of contractors wins bids repeatedly. The same managers are shuffled from project to project. And the entire IT procurement process takes too long -- typically two years from the call for bids to implementation. This state of affairs shuts out innovative companies, universities, and people, Kundra said.
He expanded on the waste and inefficiency all this leads to, saying that, on his arrival in Washington, $27 billion worth of IT projects (out of an overall budget of $80 billion) were "hundreds of millions" of dollars over budget and years behind schedule. By calling all parties on the carpet and raking through the facts, Kundra says his team cut $3 billion in waste.
One wonders what happened to the other $24 billion. Kundra cited one DoD project that had to be canned after 12 years and $1 billion was sunk into it. He also cited costs such as $137 million over six years spent on simply piling up reports on cybersecurity that were filed in "metal boxes" in Washington.
But Kundra's most damning statistics surrounded the government's datacenter deployments. Since 1998, he said, the government had expanded its number of datacenters from 432 to 2,000. Average CPU utilization is 27 percent, and average storage utilization is under 40 percent.
Kundra has published a worthy 25-point plan to reform federal IT. And he has begun the process of consolidating and closing government datacenters (800 already have been closed, with 137 more planned for closure by the end of this year). Unless his plan becomes a lost opportunity after he leaves, progress should continue.
Kundra has already started his plan to replace much datacenter infrastructure with cloud services, which he says save money by delivering value "on day one," instead of requiring long periods of time to achieve payback. Various government agencies, he says, have already saved over $42 million just by using cloud services to support email.
IT professionals everywhere can learn from Kundra's assessments, even if their enterprise IT outfits are more efficient than the government's. And a central message seems to be to break out of traditional ways of thinking about procurement, project management, and vendor relations.
Now that Kundra is moving on out of the Washington fray, his words to the wise should resonate even more clearly.
Join the editors and moderators of Internet Evolution to discuss the federal CIO's outgoing advice on Monday, July 25, at 1:00 p.m. ET. Click here then to join the chat. See you
— Mary Jander , ThinkerNet Editor, Internet Evolution