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Nominee For OMB Post Seeks Better IT Management

Jeffrey Zients, nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget and the country's first chief performance officer, addressed a Senate Committee on Wednesday.

Poor management and a lack of engagement between IT managers and agency leadership are the primary causes of many IT project failures in government, Jeffrey Zients, nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget and the country's first chief performance officer, told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs on Wednesday.

As chief performance officer, Zients would oversee the OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Office of E-Government and Information Technology, and Office of Federal Financial Management.

Hundreds of federal IT projects are on watch lists for being poorly planned or poorly performing, and federal CIO Vivek Kundra has made it one of his missions to make sure IT projects are better run. Zients appears to be on the same track.

"This is a management issue more than a technology issue," Zients said in his nomination hearing. "It comes down to having the right people, sharing best practices, and ensuring program management processes are robust. Making sure the CIO has a seat at the management table as a senior executive is extremely important."

In addition to encouraging sharing of best practices, better program management processes, and a closer relationship between agency heads and CIOs, Zients said that CIOs and the OMB need to learn about problems in projects sooner, and that CIOs need to be held accountable for poor project performance.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, pushed Zients on improving budget transparency and said that she isn't pleased with the progress so far of, the government's stimulus-tracking Web site. Zients said that remains a top priority and would be greatly improved by upgrades coming this fall that will inform the future development of other government spending sites such as

Zients also said that he would collaborate with agencies to overhaul the government's performance management tools so that they are more widely used by government agencies.

Zients has served as CEO of the Corporate Executive Board and Advisory Board Co., both performance management benchmarking companies. He founded investment firm Portfolio Logic, was a director of Sirius XM Radio, and was chairman of pediatric home health care provider PSA Healthcare.

In his nomination hearing, Zients said that though he understands that the public sector and private sector differ in terms of performance measurement, he would draw on his private-sector experience to manage government performance. "It's not one size fits all; there's no single underlying profit motive," he said. "Instead, we look at the purpose of the program and for outcomes."

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on the current state of IT salaries. Download the report here (registration required).

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