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The Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative offered a great opportunity to redeploy resources. But agencies that didn't seize it now face a tougher investment environment.

Bob Otto

November 25, 2013

3 Min Read

A group of federal IT executives recently asked me what I thought about the progress of the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI) over the past four years. I responded, “lots of opportunities,” as I truly believe that’s the case.

Let me explain.

As any government CIO can tell you, it all begins with the math, where 80% of the IT budget is already committed to operations and maintenance according to the Corporate Executive Board. The only way to move your organization forward is to reduce support costs -- and datacenters offer the most opportunities.

This was certainly my experience as CIO/CTO for the United States Postal Service, where I consolidated 19 datacenters down to two. By using this as an opportunity to standardize, centralize and simplify IT, I was able to reinvest hundreds of millions of dollars into other aspects of modernizing the business.

In terms of FDCCI, I worry that some agencies have not made it a high enough priority and I wonder if my response should now be “lost opportunities”?

Here’s the challenge that many agencies face today. While additional funding for FDCCI was limited, OMB generally maintained IT budgets over the past four years. OMB argued that this would enable investments in datacenter consolidation that would reduce costs in out years, allowing for eventual reductions in IT operating budgets.

The reality is that some agencies have made great headway as they have embraced FDCCI as an opportunity to reshape IT. However, those that have viewed it as a compliance exercise now face significant challenges. And like the squirrel that failed to save enough nuts, these laggards are now looking at a very long winter of bleak IT budgets.

[What you can learn from Uncle Sam’s missteps: Read: 3 Lessons From 5 Years Of Federal Data Center Consolidation Delays.]

The mistake that many of these agencies made was considering this just a cost-cutting exercise. As a result, many CIOs took limited personal ownership for the success of the initiative, and failed to assign their best and brightest to the project.

The reality is that this is cutting-edge stuff and it is hard. It involves implementing a hybrid cloud strategy and creating a software-defined infrastructure. Shifting operations to a DevOps model. Implementing measurement metrics for every product and service produced. Enabling a more open and flexible architecture for an increasingly mobile and multi-client world. And finally, it involves performing portfolio management of your applications.

While IT departments need to continue to focus on operational cost, security and reliability, this is also an opportunity to help the mission become faster, more agile and more innovative. By doing so, IT operations can and must move from trusted vendor to valued partner to the mission. This is the only way to survive and be relevant for the business of the future.

But time is running out as three trends are set to converge. While current IT budgets are hardly robust, future ones will be even tighter. Furthermore, technology is entering a period of rapid change that will leave today’s legacy environments further behind. Finally, the mission continues to become more dynamic and demanding, pushing current systems to their breaking point. It is time to take FDCCI seriously.

Bob Otto was the CIO/CTO for the United States Postal Service (USPS) from 2001 to 2007 and currently services as President of the Agilex’ Government Services Sector.

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About the Author(s)

Bob Otto

President, Government Services Sector, Agilex Technologies

Bob Otto serves as President of Agilex Technologies' Government Services Sector. He was previously Chief Information Officer and Chief Technology Officer for the United States Postal Service. He has nearly 40 years of public service. 

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