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Federal CIO: Don't Let 'Sunk Costs' Deter Innovation
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WKash
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WKash,
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2/11/2014 | 6:01:38 PM
Re: Bold or timid?
Chris, I'm sure you're right about the challenge in the private sector writing off sunk costs.  At least in the private sector, it's easier to take tax write offs, and reallocate the funds.  At agencies, doing the right thing (to shut down a legacy system) is complicated by the threat that annual funding will suddenly disappear; and it can take a long time to get new funding for replacement systems. 
jries921
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jries921,
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2/10/2014 | 8:16:01 PM
Re: Bold or timid?
Good point.  I'll even note that the US Constitution allows non-military appropriations to last more than 2 years.  But there is still a need for some flexibility in spending because next years priorities may or may not be this year's.  That said, I'm wondering if it wouldn't be better for Congress to set caps and then let the Administration decide what cuts to make if less money is available than has been appropriated.

 
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
2/10/2014 | 8:11:19 PM
True
Success is hard if one never allows oneself to fail, but it would be better to experiment with small projects and then move to the big time if the concept has promise.  All employees in creative occupations (and I think that includes the computer professions) need some time to play, but they also have work they need to get done in a timely manner, and it's foolish to take big risks when small ones will work nearly as well.

 
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
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2/10/2014 | 7:26:24 PM
Re: Bold or timid?
"Sunk cost" thinking every bit as common in the private sector, too. With $100 million into a legacy system, it takes a lot of guts for anyone to say "put a fence around it and let's do another direction for new functionality." Good for Van Roekel for giving people some air cover to make that call. 
WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Author
2/10/2014 | 4:47:07 PM
Re: Bold or timid?
Not every project qualifies  When the Navy needed to replace its Intranet (NMCI), it still needed to create a system that supports more than 800K users around the globe (far from shore) and capable of handling all kinds of data stream and apps.  And many govt data bases, ie. at Social Security and the IRS, hold 100s of millions of records. 
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
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2/10/2014 | 2:32:56 PM
Re: Bold or timid?
I think given the amount of bloat that government projects often take on that smaller initiatives might be more effective.

Look, government is not like the private sector. As a result, I think that it is important for the public sector to do things differently, especially since everything is done with taxpayer money. 
WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Author
2/10/2014 | 2:13:15 PM
Re: Bold or timid?
VanRoekel is definitely advocating the former -- not that agencies shouldn't think big, just not continue to commission huge IT projects that take years to execute.  One of the root problems of government IT is that funding is allocated on a yearly basis. But when IT projects can take 3-5 years to build, they fall prey to disruptive changes in out-year funding, the rotation of political appointees and senior leaders who alter course, and an acquisition process that must meet so many requirements, the technology is outdated by the time it's built.  VanRoekel is advocating commissioing smaller, more agile and more iterative IT improvements, and a shift to services where agencies.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
2/10/2014 | 1:07:36 PM
Bold or timid?
I can't figure out if this federal CIO is signaling a worthwhile break from bad patterns of the past or just letting us know not to expect big things.


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