By Dick Stark
“People won’t hate government if it works and if it serves them well. Digitalization starts us down that path.”
—Tony Scott, Former Federal Government CIO
A week ago, RightStar went live with BMC’s MyIT Service Broker at a large civilian agency. The project digitized 45 pages of manual PDF forms, and built a Service Catalog, to request products such as cell phones, laptops and VPN services, while providing a modern easy-to-use Amazon, look and feel. This system will soon expand to include employee on-and off-boarding.
Meanwhile, another RightStar team is working on a similar project with another large civilian agency to provide essential IT products and services to its employees. The agency has begun demoing this to its “customers” with the feedback often, “you finally get it.” (Because MyIT is such an improvement over the older SRM product it is sometimes mistaken for a competitive product.) Eventually this service will be rolled out to mobile users as well. The short-term impact is that Remedy is not “going anywhere” with the government electing to continue to stick with Remedy due to the value provided through IT modernization.
IT modernization is a top priority for most government agencies as they race to replace aging legacy systems. Just last week, the OMB asked Congress for $228 million for the central fund, known as the IT Modernization Fund (ITMF), to act as a first-year proof of concept for how agencies would submit business cases and the ITMF board would decide which projects to award funding.
Quoted on the Federal News Radio Website this week, a Federal OMB official stated, “Programs that cost in the $3 million to $5 million range such as migrating email to the cloud or help desk consolidation, would provide enough samples for the fund to impact agency missions, and for the administration to understand how the business case process works This creates a strong incentive for agencies to come up with modernization proposals that have a high return or investment, as well as those that focus on common platforms or cloud services.”
Ironically, last week’s lead FCW article, “Failure to Digitize,” described the ongoing effort to modernize the H-1B Visa process at the US Customs and immigration (USCIS). This effort, which began more than ten years ago, and is now four years behind schedule, has cost USCIS more than $2.3B, according to FCW. The Washington Post provided even more detail, quoting a former USCIS union representative, “You’re going on 11 years into this project, they only have one form, and we’re still a paper based agency.” In fact, the agency’s application H-1B application process averages 60 pages and is currently processed entirely on paper.
This project ranks “right up there” with other government infamous projects, Lockheed’s, botched $170M 2001 FBI modernization project, and CGI’s removal from its $678M 2013 Obamacare website development contract. Who or what to blame? The FBI project is often cited as a case study for agile development over the traditional waterfall approach. And now the USCIS can blame waterfall as well. Similarly, CGI’s failure was its inability to adequately test software end-to-end.
But of course, the ITMF is not looking to sponsor such large humongous projects. Rather, quick wins, like a new agency wide service catalog that goes live in months instead of years and provides a rapid return on investment and real business value.