The Federal Communications Commission has one system for every nine employees, and many of them are more than a decade old and in need of upgrading.
David Bray, the chief information officer at the FCC, has a plan that includes giving the business owners a choice of how they spend their IT budget to improve these legacy applications.
“One of the first things we will do is have a chief enterprise architecture. That’s the first step to define the software stack we should be using at the FCC that’s consistent,” Bray said. “Once we define that software stack, we need to start thinking about modernization. There actually is a place holder that, shortly upon my arrival, we made the case that for fiscal year 2015, we do need to modernize these systems because they do keep me up at night. I do worry about them. Doing that would use this year to begin the plan for that.”
At the same time, Bray also is focusing on customer service by having IT experts in his office focus on specific mission areas. These “intrepreneurs” would be empowered to work with the bureaus and offices to get their IT needs met within the limitations of the budget.
“The trends that we are seeing is we need to think about end-to-ends services. Because if you fragment IT, you might do one part great — you might get the software great, but you might not think about how you will host it on the network — so it’s how do you do the functions that need to be centralized, which could be network operations or security, but also have that end-to-end service representation to the units, and think of it as actually a partnership,” he said.
Bray, who started at the FCC in August, said he is meeting with employees and their unions and hopes to get these “intrepreneurs” in place by the end of the month.
The idea of an empowerment model cuts across many of Bray’s top priorities.
For instance, he wants to have complete transparency in the IT budget so everyone knows how much the organization spends on printers, computers and the like.
“What I’m trying to do is create a choice architecture,” Bray said. “The different bureaus and offices can decide the different tradeoffs they want to do. Do they want to spend more on mobile devices versus desktops? Do they want to have individual printers? It’s their choice, not my choice so I’m empowering that.”
Bray said by making the budget transparent, it creates more trust in the CIO office because the bureaus and offices can see the funding challenges they face.
“I’m a big believer that the best leaders sell, not tell. This is me trying not to force change on people, but bring them along as a coalition,” he said. “What it is almost like providing them a cost schedule that says, here are the different things you can pick from, here’s the cost to purchase it initially and maintain it over a three-year lifecycle. And from that, here are the standards we are using so you are interoperable in our organization. Again, it’s me trying to empower the bureaus and offices and they will know what’s best for them.”
Another example of the empowerment model is the implementation of virtual desktop interface and mobile computing.
Bray said the FCC is in beta testing for the VDI software currently and plans to expand it across the agency this spring. He said that will lead to a bring-your- own-device policy for the commission.
“That will then empower people to rethink workflows. Do we necessarily need to always have people on site? Can we be working elsewhere? Some of the things we do involve certain cars, can we have cars that are actually equipped with the mobile devices we usually bring instead of building them into the cars? So it’s empowering what we can do with workflow,” he said.
The idea of improving workflow also ties back to the fact that the FCC has too many disparate systems. Bray wants to reduce the complexity of the FCC’s network by moving toward agile or modular development, so the new applications can be based on standards and plugged into different organizations as needed.
“We should have tight integration between the people who are coming up with the concept, having the conversations with the bureaus and offices, developing the code and the actual eventual roll out into operations,” Bray said. “This is exactly where in the very beginning where we would have people who are experts in security, experts in privacy and be thinking about do we actually bake-in those protections and have those alerts. Instead of trying to build a higher wall, we are having defense in-depth.”