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Federal CIO Launches 'TechStat'

Vivek Kundra aims to identify federal IT projects that are over budget, behind schedule, or underperforming.

Federal CIO Vivek Kundra has launched a formal process to dig deep into at-risk and failing IT projects in the federal government, and those that come out on the wrong side of analysis could end up on the chopping block.

This decision-making process is beginning to take place through what the White House's Office of Management and Budget calls TechStat sessions, meetings with the OMB where agency CIOs, CFOs, and other key stakeholders hammer out solutions to problem IT projects that are over budget, behind schedule, or underperforming.

"We're going to review investments and take decisive actions so we can terminate projects that are not yielding dividends for the American people, turn around projects that can be turned around, and halt those where we believe that there's serious issues," Kundra said on a Wednesday conference call with reporters. The goals, Kundra said, include reducing wasteful spending, improving government performance and sharing best practices among agencies who've tackled similar problems.

The effort is in its early stages, having formally begun in January. Kundra said in a follow-up interview Thursday that he's spending about 50% of his time getting the program up and running. He's already holding three or four TechStat sessions weekly. However, he's looking to ramp TechStat up even further.

Current plans are to gradually increase the frequency of TechStat meetings, create a more permanent, streamlined process that looks at every major IT investment across government, and push the TechStat concept out into agencies as well, so that CIOs and other IT managers hold their own meetings. "This is going to happen not just with me alone," Kundra said. "I'm making sure that CIOs across the federal government are going to adopt this and make sure that these sessions are being run at a departmental level."

Today, TechStat topics are chosen at least partially based on data reported on the White House's IT Dashboard, which gives both the public and federal managers insight into the performance of federal IT projects. Kundra has referred to performance management efforts like this as "stage two" of IT Dashboard's usefulness.

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