Federal CIOs Extol TechStat Contribution To IT Reform

The technology leaders of the DHS, HHS, and the Department of Commerce credited the Obama administration's review process for helping them fix underperforming IT projects.
Three federal CIOs have highlighted the value of the Office of Management and Budget's TechStat project review process in helping them meet the goals of the Obama administration's 25-point IT reform plan.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) CIO Richard Spires, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) CIO Michael Carleton, and Department of Commerce CIO Simon Szykman all cited TechStat--an OMB program that agencies now also are using to review underperforming IT investments--as key to some of the progress they've made to improve IT in their agencies.

In separate blog posts on the website, the CIOs gave an update at the six-month mark of their agencies progress on the IT reform plan that U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra unveiled in December. All three cited TechStat as a way they've been able to get some troubled IT projects back on track. Kundra himself has publicly lauded the review sessions as one of the ways the feds have been able to identify poorly performing IT projects, some of which have been cancelled due to TechStat findings.

Over at the DHS, TechStat helped the agency make improvements to its Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, a web-based service that tracks and monitors schools, programs, and students during the time they are approved to participate in the U.S. education system, according to Spires. The DHS is working to modernize the service to take a more "person-centric" approach, he said.

Support for modular development in the acquisition strategy, engaged agency leadership, assigned dedicated resources throughout the program's lifecycle, and a direct line of accountability to the CIO's office are all improvements to the project that emerged from a TechStat session on the project the agency held in March--its first, he said.

A TechStat review session also helped HHS get its Enterprise Human Resource and Planning (EHRP) project back on track, according to Carelton. "The TechStat model has so far proven to be an effective tool for improving investment management at HHS," he wrote.

As a result of a project review held in April, the department has instituted monthly status checks to monitor the progress of a new action plan for the project, as well as renewed its focus on the core objective for EHRP at HHS, Carelton said. The agency now plans to implement an end-to-end HR infrastructure that provides manager self-service tools, reduces costs and service lead times, and improves data integrity, he said.

An underperforming project at the National Weather Service to develop a network of 159 high-resolution Doppler weather radars was the subject of a TechStat meeting at the Department of Commerce two months ago, according to Szykman's post. As a result of the review session, the department realized the Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD) project needed an on-site project manager and more subject-matter experts to meet the needs of the technical aspects of the project, he said. The department is currently making the improvements to the project.

"This sort of focused scrutiny is exactly what is needed to ensure that critical projects remain on track," Carelton said, adding that the department is currently assessing other IT projects to see which ones could also benefit from a TechStat review.

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