GSA illustrates business value of IT investments

The General Services Administration is making sure its new commissioner of the Technology Transformation Service, Rob Cook, is receiving advice, help and insights about how the government works.

Over the next few months, David Shive, the GSA chief information officer who also spent four months earlier this year as the acting commissioner of TTS, is part of a team helping Cook adapt to the federal community.

David Shive is the CIO of the General Services Administration.
David Shive is the CIO of the General Services Administration.

Shive said he’s given Cook some straightforward, simple advice as he takes over TTS. Cook started at TTS on Oct. 31.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Rob for a couple of weeks now. I’ve found a couple of things out. He’s really smart. He has a great business head on his shoulders and an even better technical head on his shoulders. We’ll be affecting a pretty slow transition. I promised him and [GSA Administrator] Denise [Turner Roth] that I would stick around and be part of the transition as long as it’s necessary and as long as it takes,” Shive said during an interview on Ask the CIO. “I suggested to him to be himself. He’s smart. He’s thoughtful and he’s deliberate about how he analyzes information. I said take all that and apply that to TTS because it’s a group of really smart people and they’ll appreciate that there is a fellow smarty in the room to help them do what they need to do.”

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Additionally, Shive advised Cook to find the right balance between allowing creativity to solve federal IT challenges and meeting the regulatory and policy requirements that every federal organization must comply with.

“To do that, because it’s his first time in the federal government, we wrapped around him a great ecosystem of support,” he said. “I said to him, ‘We will make sure that you have the support you need from legal, from communications, from the Federal Acquisition Service and the chief acquisition officer, from GSA IT, my role as the GSA CIO, so he doesn’t get crosswise with security and IT compliance stuff.’ I said leverage that talent and bring those great organizations to bear to help you solve TTS problems and to run TTS as an entity. I’m so pleased to report that he not only said, ‘yes I will do that, and I absolutely need that to happen.’ He’s invited us in again and again and again as he gets up to speed to give context on that kind of stuff.”

Shive said he expects to continue to be an adviser to Cook for the next couple of months before returning solely to his CIO role.

Turner Roth brought in Shive in July to run TTS and bring a level of mature leadership to the organization. Shive spent four months improving processes and ensuring 18F specifically is following policy and regulations. GSA leadership saw the results of an internal review and preliminary findings of an agency inspector general report prompting Shive’s interim promotion.

GSA’s inspector general eventually issued a harsh report in October about problems with 18F, including a disregard for policy and rules.

With Cook in place, Shive said he’s refocusing on his role as CIO.

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Some of his priorities are to strengthen the collaboration with TTS, continue to align delivery of IT to business requirements, training and recruitment of the IT workforce and “double down” on moving off legacy systems.

Shive said he has been testing a new approach to make working with the business side of the agency easier.

“We will use emerging business processes like Technology Business Management (TBM) to better show the value of investments in IT in business outcomes rather than in technology outcomes,” he said. “It’s a taxonomy that has existed in the private sector for a long time. GSA and a couple of other agencies are taking a long step into using that here to show the business value of the IT investments we make. A lot of people make investments into IT, but we are taking the view that if you can’t show a direct, positive business outcome to that investment, then we are just not going to do it.”

The Commission on IT Cost, Opportunity, Strategy and Transparency (COST) recommended earlier this summer that agencies could use TBM to help drive consistency across how agencies report IT spending. The commission made 21 recommendations to help agencies save more than $5.8 billion in IT spending.

Shive, who was part of the commission, said GSA started a pilot about two years ago, and the CIO Council has been talking about how to apply TBM more broadly across the government.

“This view of IT spending allows our customers to understand the business value of the portfolio of IT systems, services and tools they invest in through GSA IT, while enabling us to make data-driven decisions and trade-offs between cost, quality and value,” Shive wrote in a July 2016 blog post about TBM.