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Vivek Kundra Gets ‘B’ Grade as Federal CIO

Cloud initiatives have become more desirable to federal IT professionals, but new federal CIO Steven VanRoekel may have to ground the work in reality.

by / September 26, 2011
Vivek Kundra, former Federal CIO. Photo by David Kidd. Photo by David Kidd

Federal IT professionals believe Vivek Kundra made a positive impact during his tenure as United States CIO, but most feel data center consolidation efforts are underfunded and agencies are purposefully delaying a move to the cloud, according to a study released Monday, Sept. 26.

Over to You, Mr. VanRoekel ... A Federal IT Referendum on Change, picked the brains of 174 federal IT workers in August, as Steven VanRoekel took over as federal CIO from Kundra. Conducted by MeriTalk, a government IT network, the study spotlights concerns about conflicting mandates and unrealistic timelines in regard to IT implementation at the federal level.

The study results show that 92 percent of federal IT professionals believe moving to the cloud is a good idea for government. But only 29 percent are following Kundra’s Cloud First policy and 42 percent say they are taking a “wait-and-see” approach before making any decisions.

Although respondents gave Kundra a “B” in regard to his leadership, a majority felt his ideas weren’t doable in the immediate future. The study revealed that while 95 percent of federal IT workers support data center consolidation, approximately 70 percent believed federal agencies would not be able to eliminate the mandated 800 data centers by 2015.

In addition, while 74 percent of those surveyed anticipate Uncle Sam saving at least $75 million by consolidating data centers, 85 percent say new investment is needed in order to make those savings a reality.

The results weren’t a surprise to MeriTalk founder Steve O’Keefe.

He said that in March, MeriTalk surveyed the federal IT community regarding its reaction to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB)’s 25 Point Implementation Plan to Reform Information Technology Management, which outlined the Cloud First policy and data center consolidation efforts.

O’Keefe explained that at the time, respondents didn’t think the cloud was “desirable or doable” and they had concerns about the practicality of data center consolidation

“I’m not saying leadership shouldn’t lead — of course it should,” O’Keefe said. “But if people feel as though it is not desirable or doable, that’s a recipe for, ‘the beatings will continue until morale improves.’”

The new study results reveal a change in the federal IT mindset regarding the desirability of cloud, but not the practical concerns on how to get there.

“What you see today is these things — consolidation, cloud computing — are now all desirable, but there are still significant questions about doability, especially in the time frame,” O’Keefe said.

Looking ahead, the study results indicate that federal IT professionals think VanRoekel needs to ground some of Kundra’s ideas in reality. Sixty percent of the study’s respondents felt the number of mandates need to be reduced, while 53 percent felt that it’s important to reassess goals and timelines to make initiatives such as data center consolidation successful.

Almost half of those surveyed felt that the new federal CIO needs to listen to feedback from IT personnel in order to gain a better understanding of the issues they are facing.

In a press release, O’Keefe likened Kundra’s tenure as federal CIO to a bottle of champagne, saying it “seems like a great idea, exciting start, but the plan’s unclear and the next morning you wake up with the same problems and a sore head.”

“Overall, what this [new survey] is saying to OMB and VanRoekel is there is an opportunity,” O’Keefe said to Government Technology. “What Vivek did was great, ideas were good, terrific ... but what we need to do is simplify things and listen. I think OMB needs to do as much listening as it does talking.”


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Brian Heaton

Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.

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