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Feds Draw Lessons From Private Sector IT

Federal CIO Vivek Kundra said the government must innovate by borrowing best practices from the private sector during a panel discussion at the InformationWeek Government IT Leadership Forum.

Obama's Tech Tools
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Slideshow: Obama's Tech Tools
Kundra noted in reply that the customer service effort looks to more closely align the nuts and bolts of IT with the government's larger mission. "The last decade in federal IT, we've continued work on infrastructure, on integrating legacy systems, but where we haven't focused a lot is the interface between the American people and how they're getting services from the federal agencies," he said. "Now, we're asking a simple question: Given the experience many of us have on OpenTable or Facebook, what are the bets those companies made and how can the government shift its mind-set?"

Big, cross-government efforts like data center consolidation should not just be about cost savings and energy efficiency, he said. They also need to be about freeing up money to spend on higher value efforts to better connect with the public.

However, customer service doesn't just mean the external customer. "For the future CIO, there's much more of a role to ensure our internal clients do the right thing with the stuff we give them," Sunoco's Whatnell said. "If you help them do the right thing, you help drive the mission forward."

In an interview after the keynote, Kundra noted that the General Services Administration would by May 10 release a $2.5 billion request for proposals for a cross-agency cloud email and collaboration contract that will cast a wide net in an attempt to attract agencies from across federal, state, and local government as potential users and leverage their combined purchasing power.

"The government has a unique opportunity when it pools its purchasing power to drive the marketplace," Kundra said.

The contract will account for wide variations in customer demand by offering both private cloud and public cloud options, and will even have an option that meets the security needs of agencies doing business in a classified secret environment. The contract will be one of the first that will go through the FedRAMP shared security accreditation process, Kundra said.

The email contract won't just aim for federal customers, either, as most GSA contracts do. Instead, GSA has worked closely with state CIOs, including Utah CIO Stephen Fletcher, in crafting the request for proposals. The contract will include a provision that allows states and localities to buy in.

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