Randy Hite reflected on the technological changes he has seen as director of IT Architecture and Systems Issues at the Government Accountability Office. Hite spoke with the Federal Drive on his last day in the office.
Hite’s career at the agency spanned four Comptroller Generals, the incorporation of the desktop computer, the laptop and the smartphone into government use, and countless reports and studies.
While the technology involved has evolved since he began, Hite said the approach to acquiring, managing, implementing and operating the technology hasn’t changed that drastically.
“The same kind of challenges that existed 25 years ago, when organizations were trying to put in place mainframe-based applications, still continue to surface now, even with the advent of different technologies,” Hite said.
In the end, the success that agencies have in the IT acquisitions process comes down to execution, Hite says. Agencies must have the capacity, in manpower and knowledge to understand complex acquisition statutes, identify technology needs, and then establish and execute customized procedures. Often, due to a lack of resources, personnel or time, and an abundance of stress placed on acquisition managers, corners are cut in the process, and then face problems.
In other situations, the constant change in leadership can cause problems. Agency administrators or CIOs may not serve in their positions for extending periods of time Hite said, but often try to execute major projects in short time-frames. When time-frame expectations at the top are unrealistic from the onset, it’s problematic and can be detrimental to the career staff that are expected to follow-through on proposed changes.
“The way you’re going to transform government is through leveraging IT, as a force multiplier, and as a strategic asset that is going to allow you to do things better, faster, smarter,” Hite said. “As it has been over the 30 years, as it’s going to be going forward, IT is going to be integral to the federal government’s ability to deliver services to citizens.”
Along with the changes in technology comes the effect of its application. When he first started, Hite said the amount of information that one received and was expected to incorporate was relatively small.
“Now you get inundated with information,” Hite said. “The difference between now and then — relative to the amount of information you are receiving — is night and day.”
Increased sharing of and access to the information you need to do your job can also mean you are never away from your job, Hite said, citing his own use of his BlackBerry at sporting events.
So for now, Hite will step away from full-time work and transition to working part-time at his own consulting firm.
For Hite, however, his work at the GAO was no different than what he does in his off-time.
“My wife jokes that around the house I’m always offering up suggestions as to how things can be done better, well that’s pretty much the way my career has been and [what] the focus of my work at GAO has been,” Hite said.
Not to mention, his work allowed him to both see what practices could be improved and identify what is working.
“I think frankly, based on 30 years in the government, [that] is one of the best kept secrets,” Hite said. Realizing how much work in the federal government is is really being done well, and giving federal employees credit for all the things that get done well everyday.
Tom Temin is the host of The Federal Drive, which airs from 6-10 a.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, D.C. region and online everywhere. Tom has 30 years experience in journalism, mostly in technology markets. Before coming to Federal News Radio, he was a long-serving editor-in-chief of Government Computer News and Washington Technology magazines.