I recently spoke at the 2017 Hewlett-Packard Enterprises Government Summit in Washington, DC. I was on a panel discussing IT Transformation. The moderator asked me to share my experiences and perspective as the former Director of IT Operations at IRS, as well as my new focus as VP of Customer Success at Intact Technology.
The first question I was asked was, “with the prospect of shrinking budgets, what can government IT Operations organizations do to better leverage the limited dollars they receive?” My answer had several components:
The first of which was, start with a customer-centric vision and mission, and never waiver. It’s easy to think short term, but when the going gets tough it’s best to take the long view, which means thinking, planning and operating strategically. During my last 6 years at IRS, IT was under tremendous fiscal pressure. We embarked on a journey to become a world class IT organization, while at the same time, we were asked to deliver new technologies and applications (like all of the Affordable Care Act functionality) with no funding.
We decided that for IT to have a real impact on the business and the American taxpaying public, we had to focus on creating incremental value for our customers and communicating those successes clearly and consistently. With such a strong customer focus, our business customers became our strongest supporters. And with each success, we were better able to successfully argue for additional funding for IT (internally… not necessarily with the Hill, which was basing its decisions primarily on political considerations not performance in my view)
Internally, as we moved along our journey to world class IT operations, we understood that great solution implementation places you closer to the beginning, not the end, of the operational maturity curve. We invested in improving our people and processes, enabling our teams with a practical strategy, improved incident, problem, change and configuration management data and processes, and employee enablement to get full value from the hardware, software, and middleware investments we made. And guess what? It worked! By 2015 the availability of our critical systems to our customers had risen to 99%.
As my time on stage drew to a close, I was asked for some tips or lessons learned, so here are a few things I shared that hopefully will help you as well. No matter where you work (i.e., government or private sector), you can apply these principles:
– Even under the tightest budgetary pressures, many agencies are not able to spend all their funds prior to September 30, so take the time now to lay the foundation for arguing for those funds. That starts with identifying critical needs (like software and services), building statements of work and justifications, identifying procurement vehicles, and vetting your plan with your executive sponsor. Laying this kind of foundation will put you in front of the line when those dollars show up in July and August.
– With the advent of DevOps, IT Operations has a golden opportunity to negotiate with the Applications team to more fully collaborate on monitoring, incident and problem management. Many of the monitoring tools today are very powerful, but simply too difficult for the average Ops person to fully leverage. Having Aps folks on your team and using these tools side by side with Ops folks will greatly improve your ability to deliver incremental capabilities and most importantly optimize system availability for your customers.
– Develop clear metrics that tie back to the outcomes you expect. I did not share this lesson learned at the event, but as my former boss Terry Milholland often said, “facts and data will set you free.” So, make sure your team has a clear understanding of the outcomes you are driving toward, and develop a set of metrics tied to the goals you are trying to achieve. These metrics should help you drive your decisions. In the end everything we do in IT has a purpose – whether it is to reduce operational complexity and cost, improve efficiency, or increase compliance, you have to clearly communicate your goals and hold everyone accountable for delivering quantifiable business outcomes for your customers.
If you’d like to chat, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.