The Department of Health and Human Services soon will move its human resources systems to a federal shared service provider.
Frank Baitman, the HHS chief information officer, said the goal is for HHS to stop doing things they have little or no real expertise in, and focus on the mission-critical functions of the agency.
In fact, the decision to have the human resources system hosted and managed by someone else is one that will be made for several other commodity technology systems in the coming years.
“There are IT staffs and CIOs at those operating divisions, each one pursuing a related, but different mission,” Baitman said. “Trying to pull that all together and find opportunities for working together and collaboration has been the primary thing I’ve focused on the last seven months.”
Baitman said because of the federated nature of the agency, his office has little insight into what the operating divisions bought and maintained.
“The PortfolioStat process resulted in greater awareness of our commodity IT, but it was a real heavy lift to get there and pull all that information together,” he said. “What we have done with that is prioritize a handful of things we will work on during 2012 and 2013 to try and move some of that commodity IT activities to department level purchasing, again so the operating divisions can focus on the non-commodity, where they understand the mission and they can add greater value.”
Baitman said HHS will initially focus on enterprise services for email and collaboration, and the HR system, and eventually move toward using the cloud to improve interagency information sharing.
HHS expects the move to a shared service provider for HR systems to save it about 25 percent annually. Baitman said the migration could be done in mid-2014.
As for email and collaboration tools, Baitman said HHS consolidated to six email systems several years ago, but could take it down to one.
Collaboration tool gaining acceptance
HHS also implemented Yammer, a Microsoft tool that creates a secure social network for an organization, a few weeks ago.
“We’ve seen remarkable uptake,” Baitman said. “NIH was already using it. Now FDA, the office of the secretary and others all are using Yammer to share information and we are seeing communities of practice emerge where people are sharing knowledge they have.”
He said employees must sign up for it, but regardless of their email domain, such as fda.gov or cms.gov, everyone is part of the HHS account.
Baitman said HHS also is developing a mobile strategy that likely will include a way to implement a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) approach.
“We’re big into mobile in terms of enabling our employees to be more productive and providing tools to the public to interact with the agency through mobile devices,” he said. “From the employees’ side of that, our focus will be enabling to use the tool of their choice.”
All of these steps Baitman is taking to modernize the agency’s systems and networks will be supported by an upcoming enterprisewide cloud computing services contract.
“We have begun moving some applications to the cloud in line with the OMB guidance to do so,” he said. “We are taking a bigger picture look at it. In 2013, we are looking at putting out a large procurement for cloud services. I imagine that there will be multiple awardees to that procurement. What we are hoping to do with that is make it possible for programs, for our operating division CIOs and for everyone across the department to take advantage of those cloud vehicles to provide great service at a great cost by having a single vehicle. Secondly, we want to avoid cloud sprawl which is an increasing concern in an agency as large and diverse as HHS.”
VMO to launch
To help manage this modernization, Baitman said a new HHSwide governance group so the programs or divisions considering cloud services can ensure their plans fit in with the broader plans.
He also is creating a vendor management organization to help manage and buy commodity IT services.
“We haven’t dealt with vendors in a consistent and concerted way at HHS,” Baitman said. “It’s been directly through the operating divisions and many different arrangements have been struck. We are hoping to identify things we all consider a win, and those things are going to be coordinated by the VMO. The VMO will get its start early in 2013. It will be a vehicle for vendors to approach HHS and offer their wares.”