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Treasury CIO Tackles Bank Bailout, Data Center Consolidation

Michael Duffy talks with InformationWeek about navigating the financial crisis, leading a government-wide data center consolidation effort, and managing Treasury's IT infrastructure.
InformationWeek Government: How has the financial crisis changed the way you look at or driven how you do IT?

Duffy: It's definitely driven our IT, particularly at the department level. When we set up the Troubled Asset Relief Program back in the fall of 2008, that work was done primarily out of Treasury headquarters. We've had to develop new abilities to be able to consume, analyze, and manage far greater amounts of data than we had previously. It's also brought in a new cadre of Treasury officials to the department, many of whom are sophisticated users of IT. So the financial crisis and the Treasury's response has ramped up our requirements. An example of this change is in the document management arena. We had very rudimentary document management technology prior to 2008. It's led to a lot of the initiatives we're looking to pursue in eliminating paper and eliminating manual processes.

InformationWeek Government: With the passage of TARP, you had to put things into place quickly. Tell me a little bit about that experience, what you've learned from doing that.

Duffy: We had to stand stuff up in a hurry. The primary lesson is that you don't want to develop from scratch things that you don't have to.

In point of fact, we didn't have the luxury of standing up from scratch much of what we used for TARP for the first six months of the program. That was actually good because it took a while for the Office of Financial Stability to determine what IT tools they wanted and how they wanted to use those tools. As OFS has been building new systems over the course of the last year, they've actually been able to draw on the lessons learned by the business.

Since the IT is really just there to facilitate business, it's important that the business has a really good understanding of what they need. Until the business does understand what they need, you're almost better off applying the minimum amount of IT in the interim.

InformationWeek Government: So were you able to cobble together the existing systems and licenses you had to get the things done that needed to be done?

Duffy: That was the initial strategy we had, and we also relied on some external partners -- including other federal agencies. We were able to learn from those partners what the more refined toolsets needed to be.

InformationWeek Government: What are you doing now with TARP?

Duffy: Right now, the program is heavily focused on managing the assets that we acquired during the initial capital investments we made in the banks, the auto industry, AIG, etc. There's a lot of financial and investment portfolio management work being performed.