May 31, 2012

Update on HUD’s IT Modernization

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Today, the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) must deliver on the defined functions in the Clinger-Cohen Act, while also exceling in the unwritten yet critical disciplines that make or break a successful IT service delivery organization. At HUD for the last three years, we have been transforming our IT organization so that our OCIO is delivering IT in a modern way, with an organization that operates with a high degree of customer focus, precision, and performance. 

HUD’s new “customer-focused” IT delivery paradigm is the most influential of the key tenets of our IT reorganization. Customer focus provides the proper balance to IT reforms such as IT as a commodity and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), which can become impersonal if implemented without regard for customer service.

By 12/31/2012, as part of our Cloud First plan, we will complete migration of two IT commodity services—our Lotus infrastructure and our external SharePoint—to a shared services approach. And we will be kicking off our critical HUDNET project, which will establish a roadmap of services, controls, and oversight for overhauling HUD’s IT infrastructure. HUDNET will bring the infrastructure up to date while providing better visibility into infrastructure services and enabling HUD compliance with Federal direction (shared services, commodity IT, Cloud First, and so on).

But even as the Department moves toward lowering our IT costs by taking these steps, we must make absolutely certain that we are using all our limited assets to provide the greatest possible added value for OCIO’s customers.

Cross-agency collaboration is also a key to the achievement of our Shared First plans. In addition to playing an active role on the CIO Council, we also look for opportunities to share resources with our fellow agencies. With VA, HUD is working on an initiative to improve data concerning the homeless and homeless veterans. We collaborate with the Department of Energy (DOE) in a partnership to streamline the application process for the DOE’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP).  We continue to work with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) creating an Online Digital Literacy Portal for citizens. And HUD and USDA plan to integrate information technology assessments into the Empowerment Zone (EZ), Enterprise Community (EC), and Renewal Community (RC) programs. All these and other cross-agency efforts remind us that “Shared First” at HUD has a government wide scope and that collaboration across agencies improves the effectiveness of government in a broad way.

Another tenet of our reorganization is our focus on managing with precision. For several years, we have been moving toward more data driven management of our projects. As soon as the IT Reform Plan was announced in 2010, we adopted a proactive TechStat approach at HUD. Integrating TechStats into our IT Management Framework helped institute rigor, discipline, and maturity into IT decisions and ensured that those decisions were in alignment with the Department’s strategic goals. Since then, we have conducted weekly reviews of HUD transformation initiatives with OCIO support. These reviews have led to one major initiative being stopped, at least until an alternate approach can be devised, and two other initiatives being re-scoped and re-established with improved governance. Now we are moving to the actual TechStat model that will be IT dashboard driven, with reviews automatically triggered based on project evidence and assessment.

These substantive TechStats are made possible by the advances HUD has made IT program management by applying our Project Planning and Management (PPM) life cycle to our IT investment portfolio. PPM provides real-time and accurate data directly from the integrated project teams. Our PPM approach drives responsibility and ownership of HUD’s IT investments by removing layers of stratification that used to exist in reporting. Because of these improvements, I can spend more time helping our customers consider realistic alternatives for removing obstacles and achieving mission success.

I understand the value of individual achievements such as moving services to the cloud and realigning our portfolio to remove redundancies. And most CIOs espouse the importance of being customer focused and managing with precision. However, I find few examples of OCIOs that are actually organized to engage the mission customer in a meaningful way.

I want to leave a lasting mark on HUD by making IT reform part of the fabric of our everyday life at HUD. To ensure this engagement at HUD, OCIO is building these perspectives into the organization structure as part of our Congressionally-approved reorganization. 

In the new OCIO, customer relationship coordinators (CRCs) will be embedded in our customers’ worlds, getting to know our customers and their information needs intimately and then providing a single point of focus for their interactions with OCIO.  The CRCs will provide “one stop shopping” for our customers when they have information management needs. We are providing support for rigorous management by concentrating our project managers in the OCIO project management office (PMO), where PMs will learn from each other and become a critical mass for project management excellence. And we are formalizing the data-driven aspect of our management approach through the creation of the Performance and Risk Management Branch

I have talked with many other CIOs who have ambitions of being service focused, shifting to a service first model of delivery, and even shifting to charge-back models for IT service cost reimbursement. These principles are certainly the way of modern IT service delivery, but the fundamentals to shifting to this modern model are grounded in sound management principles and organizational structure and. HUD has shifted on both fronts to accommodate the tenets of a modern OCIO and to begin operating as a high performance organization.

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