Doing More with Less: Improving the acquisition of IT systems

Sometimes, the simple act of knowing that you are doingthe right thing can be energizing…

The latest announcement from OMB on improving theacquisition of major IT systems by the Federal government gave me a sense of déjàvu linked with a sense of pride in my team here at NASA Goddard Space FlightCenter. In a recent briefing to ACT/IAC ( CIO, Vivek Kundra, communicated the goals of the new effort. They closelyresemble the goals and principles that Goddard’s Information Technology communityhas devised to guide IT investments for the foreseeable future. Our ITStrategic Implementation Plan and IT Capability Roadmaps respond to enterprisegoals, encompass Center needs, and mirror the OMB endeavor. I am pleased to seesuch alignment of effort across the Federal space.

The OMB goals are simple, and address key pain points thatfederal agencies wrestle with daily.

Provide additionaltraining in the area of acquisition management and create a new career path forprogram managers in the Federal government.

The responsibility for acquiring and managing services isa weighty one.  Those who areresponsible must be developing their own skills and responsibilitiesconstantly, keeping up with the technological rate of change itself.  Our workforce has to be prepared notonly to manage these increasingly complex services, but to use them fully.

Require agencies toestablish integrated and co-located project teams before embarking upon majorIT acquisitions.

Analysis and communication of requirements sometimesneeds a truly human touch and understanding of the customers’ needs. Beyondthat, the teams must work as an integrated whole so that the product or serviceis truly fit for purpose.

Enhance the abilityof government and industry to communicate and collaborate more effectively.  Sharpen thegovernance and accountability processes for monitoring major IT acquisitions.

Through ACT/IAC these high level conversations betweengovernment and industry regularly take place, but these discussions need to happenat all levels within the IT organization to include contracting officers,COTARs, project managers, task managers, and the boots-on-the-ground technicalexperts themselves.  We have animmense amount of talent and loyalty within our organizations on each side ofthe public/private divide. We need to make better use of the talent at hand,and establish governance structures that allow us to tap this expertise moreeffectively.

Ensure that agenciesare taking advantage of existing IT solutions wherever possible in lieu ofembarking upon major development and acquisition projects.

Replicating services isn’t terribly useful orcost-effective, and it does not expose novel ways of solving a problem. Why notadopt processes and technologies that have many kinks worked out, especiallyones that already exist within our own enterprise? The age of open standards ismaking borrowing much more possible as the barriers of institutional differenceare replaced with designs that allow for federation, scalability, and tighterinformation security. 

In the past, it was often too expensive to collaborate inorder to make wise decisions; now, it is too expensive not to. I look forwardto seeing these recommendations play out nearly as much as I anticipate greatchange and excitement within the IT community at Goddard. The possibilities arethere; even the sky isn’t the limit anymore.

2 thoughts on “Doing More with Less: Improving the acquisition of IT systems”

  1. You’re right Adrian, at NASA the sky isn’t the limit any more. Perhaps even the universe isn’t as limiting as it may have appeared to be.

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