But last month, a group of former government IT leaders, now working and consulting in the private sector, boldly embraced the title. The Iconoclasts – including Woody Hall, former CIO for the US Customs Service, Anil Karmel, former CTO at the National Nuclear Security Administration, and Dr. Alissa Johnson, former deputy CIO at the White House – presented an open letter to President Obama and the presidential candidates with recommendations for essential changes that must be made by the federal government if the United States is to maintain its global leadership, economic primacy, and standing as an international problem solver.
While some areas of much needed reform touch broad public policy areas, such as immigration and patent reform, IT modernization is at the heart of the Iconoclasts’ message. A key statistic that drove conversation at the event was that while the federal government spends approximately $80 billion on IT each year, $64 billion, or 80 percent, is spent on maintaining legacy systems.
While this might seem like good fiscal sense, the report revealed that much of that $64 billion goes to maintaining “duplicate geriatric systems…the federal government maintains 777 supply chain systems and 622 HR systems. Fraud goes unnoticed and unpunished. Five postal addresses in America received 4,900 tax refunds in 2010.” For Hall and his cohort, it is time that the federal government embraces “wholesale…technology modernization” and “invest in new…secure IT systems and applications for government.”
Mission critical recommendations for the Iconoclasts’ comprehensive IT modernization include:
• Invest fully in eGovernment. People want to be able to access government services when and where they need them, whether it’s during an emergency or for a routine activity – like a drivers’ license renewal. With more than 25 percent of citizens accessing government sites via mobile platforms, agencies need to look to agile application development to support this citizen-driven engagement.
• Evaluate legacy systems. It’s not only that legacy systems consume a great deal of budget with their maintenance needs, but they can’t be adapted to modern day challenges – such as those posed by data security and the level of demand created by a digital citizenry.
• Invest in new infrastructure and applications. Befitting their name, the Iconoclasts recommended proceeding boldly into a new era of IT. The IT leaders recommended a completely new government IT infrastructure with new applications that support multiple agencies’ requirements – so they don’t all have to build their own silos.
While the scope of the Iconoclasts’ IT revolution might seem overwhelming, there are in fact many tools available to start agencies on the path to modernization. Those just starting their innovation journey should look for solutions like IT portfolio management, rapid application development and digital business platforms to provide them with the tools to gain insight into current IT assets, automate processes, and ensure better access and usability of data across an agency’s ecosystem.
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