Former U.S. CIO Kundra Earns "B" Grade In Survey

Federal IT professionals said that Vivek Kundra improved the government's use of technology overall, but suggested his successor take a more realistic approach.
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Former U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra was an above-average IT leader who had a positive effect on government IT, but his unrealistic goals and conflicting mandates hindered his ability to achieve aspects of his agenda to transform the way the feds use technology, according to federal IT professionals.

A majority of IT professionals who responded to a survey by Meritalk about the performance of Kundra, who left the federal government Aug. 1, cited his vision, communication, and courage as the top reasons federal IT is better after his stint as CIO. Kundra left his job with the federal government Aug. 1 and is now a fellow at Harvard University.

However, they did have some advice for his successor, Steven VanRoekel, who took over the position a few days after Kundra left. While Kundra received an overall "B" grade from those surveyed for his work to implement a number of valuable initiatives, VanRoekel could take several steps to make the continuation of his work more successful.

MeriTalk polled 174 federal IT professionals at the MeriTalk Innovation Nation forum on Aug. 23 for the survey, "Over to You, Mr. VanRoeke ... A Federal IT Referendum on Change Study."

[ The former federal CIO is proud of the work he accomplished in the federal government. Read Vivek Kundra Reflects On White House Years ]

Kundra had clear goals for improving federal IT, respondents said, with 75% of them citing his vision as his greatest strength as a leader, according to MeriTalk.

However, vision didn't seem to be enough when it came to executing on his plans, according to respondents. While communication was listed as his second-strongest leadership quality, only 32% cited it as a strength, according to the survey. Some 23% of respondents said Kundra's courage and motivation were key strengths, while a mere 18% cited his dedication as integral to his leadership.

To be fair, 59% of respondents said that Kundra suffered from a lack of funding to fulfill some of his mandates, and advised VanRoekel to cut mandates that suffer from this plight.

Kundra also set what 44% of respondents believed to be conflicting mandates, and 41% felt he set what were unrealistic goals. To improve upon this, 60% of respondents said that VanRoekel should reduce the number of federal IT mandates, while 53% advised him to reassess goals and timelines for initiatives to make their success more likely.

In addition to rating Kundra's performance and identifying priorities for VanRoekel, the survey also gauged opinion on some of the key linchpins of Kundra's tenure, such as cloud computing and data center consolidation.

Cloud computing got overwhelming support from those surveyed, with 92% believing it's a good idea. However, not all of them have begun to leverage the cloud, with 42% still taking a wait-and-see approach to the technology, according to the survey.

Questions around security remain a stumbling block for adoption, according to 64% of respondents, while 36% said cultural issues and budget restraints were hindering the deployment of the cloud, MeriTalk found.

Similarly, Kundra's plans to drastically reduce the number of data centers across the federal government--which is already well underway--earned broad support from respondents, with 95% in favor of it. However, 70% of those surveyed said current goals for consolidation aren't realistic, with only 30% believing that the feds will close their goal of 800 data centers by 2015, according to the survey.

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