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5 steps to leading a successful government IT transformation project

davidwray.jpgBy David Wray, Chief Technology Officer, HP Software Federal Professional Services

 

In my last blog post I talked about the two ingredients that go into the “secret sauce” for IT transformation: evangelistic leadership and application rationalization. Knowing the secret sauce is nice, but now you’ve actually got to act on it. And there’s a lot more to leading change than simply having an ingredients checklist.

 

Now, many of the federal agencies I work with know they need to change. The IT Reform program and related initiatives such as Federal Data Center Consolidation have put forth a vision of sweeping change in federal IT. In May 2012, the OMB released its digital strategy for creating a 21st century digital government and U.S. Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel introduced the IT Shared Services Strategy. To achieve these visions, agencies will have to consolidate applications, create shared services and seize opportunities in mobile and big data. The mandate for change in federal IT has never been clearer. But as agencies start with varying degrees of success to change, I see a lot of false starts. Federal IT is an extremely siloed environment, and all those silos make it very difficult to lead transformative change.  

 

Let’s look at one area in which federal IT needs to change: application transformation. It’s hard, but I know it can be done. Here’s a five-step blueprint for leading change based on my own experience working with agencies.

 

Step 1. Start with a strategic planning session

To lead change through the organization you’ve got to get buy-in from the other groups in the organization. So start with a leadership jumpstart where you’re pulling leaders from these functional groups: 

  • Capital planning
  • Enterprise architecture
  • Finance
  • HR
  • Data warehousing/information services

 

Use the jumpstart to explain the real need for application transformation and the potential benefit.

 

Step 2. Pick your targets

Now you’ve got the functional heads together, talk about common applications that could be shared and the cost savings that could result. And then pick target areas for consolidation. One of the biggest gains is always business intelligence and data warehousing. What you find in every functional silo is they all have their own data information systems. The CFO will have 30 different financial databases, HR will have 50 different personnel systems, and they’re all different data sets. You can take all of that and move it into a data warehouse and get better and faster analytics. Other areas to look at are print services, testing and contract management.

 

Step 3. Give your strategy an execution plan

Once you pick your targets, go after them 100%. You put all your resources into standing up those enterprise services and shutting down those redundant applications. The faster you shut them down, the faster you can fund more transformation. But how do you actually execute on this? You need to tie your strategic plan to execution, and furthermore tie that to performance goals and people in the organization. If you don’t, it’s not going to work.

 

Step 4. Tie objectives to bellybuttons

Your execution plan needs to have tasks allocated and calendared, and people responsible for them. You can define the work packages and workstreams in your leadership jumpstart. But then you need to make sure there are people accountable for it – not committees, not groups. You might need to create an organization for the transformation, but someone has to be responsible for it. This can be a challenge in federal agencies because often the CIO doesn’t have the money, time or staff to follow through. So it gets given to a contractor and they don’t have the authority to do it. To give your transformation its best chance of success, make it part of someone’s job.

 

Step 5. Measure performance

Lastly, you need to report on your performance and measure if you’re successful. I would never kick this off without a way to measure to see if you’re successful. Otherwise leadership can’t make adjustments. Without that, you definitely you will fail.

 

It’s not easy to convince people to change. But there are ways to approach it—HP’s built up a set of best practices and institutional knowledge around change. The articles I find myself reading lately are all on this subject—how to motivate people to do things that aren’t their job. I hope these five steps can help you lead your change.

 

Related links:

Labels: Federal IT
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