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Q&A: HUD's Silo Buster

CIO Jerry Williams is focused on consolidating IT infrastructure and management.

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Jerry Williams, CIO, Department of Housing and Urban Development
Jerry Williams
CIO, Department of Housing and Urban Development
When Jerry Williams became CIO at the Department of Housing and Urban Development last year, he stepped into a department-wide transformation initiative. Williams focused initially on organization and IT governance, and more recently on consolidating IT infrastructure and management. He spoke with senior editor J. Nicholas Hoover about the work under way to revamp HUD's IT operations.

InformationWeek: What's IT's role in the transformation initiative?

Williams: IT will help inform this process by creating greater structure and rigor in the way in which we deploy mission-related applications and systems. We're very siloed, and we need to integrate business stovepipes and situate ourselves to apply analytics and business intelligence to support decisions we make. That would be a huge win for the department and for IT.

InformationWeek: How will you improve integration and consolidate?

Williams: We're revamping our IT governance process to diminish the duplication. For example, there's a voucher management capability in our housing group, another in [the Office of Public and Indian Housing], and one in our community planning development group. Rather than building it three times, let's build it once, then overlay it with business intelligence that would allow us to inform future business decisions.

Another thing might be to look at performance. When you dissolve silos, you can begin to look at well-performing programs vis-à-vis poor-performing programs and make determinations about where you're getting the bigger bang for the buck, and shift your resources accordingly.

InformationWeek: What are you doing to redefine business processes?

Williams: We're bringing parties to the table to discuss where the department should be going and the value that will be derived by going in that direction. ... To that end, we've crafted a customer care committee composed of all general deputy assistant secretaries, chaired by me. It's not about IT; it's about business and how IT can facilitate the end goals of the business. We bring together different people from different disciplines to talk about the capabilities they need, how they sort out on an enterprise-wide basis, and how we achieve economies of scale.

InformationWeek: What opportunities do you see for BI at HUD?

Williams: From the perspective of homelessness, HUD has information that has the potential for predictive qualities, including foreclosure data. If we pair that with information available around government, like subsistence payments to individuals who've lost their jobs or data about corporations that have gone underwater, that can help indicate whether someone might become homeless and presents an opportunity top keep that from happening.

InformationWeek: The transformation initiative includes upgrading outdated IT systems. What's HUD upgrading and why?

Williams: One of them is the voucher management system. The desire isn't to have three, but to have one. The rationale is, if 80% to 90% of the functionality is the same, why can't you have one enterprise capability? You reduce your cost, improve your efficiency, improve the integrity of the data, and allow for analytics.

InformationWeek: What are you doing to improve services to the public?

Williams: It's still early. Although we maintain and operate the infrastructure for HUD, we don't by and large operate the applications. That's a conversation that we're going to end up having with business units within HUD.

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