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FCW : January 2016
20 April 15,2015 FCW.COM FCW Roundtable 20 January 2016 FCW.COM Interagency agreements pose a particular challenge, sev- eral participants said. “We know agencies go to [the General Services Administration] or other organizations because they don’t want to follow the rules,” one said. “We see that happen.” Others, however, argued that interagency agreements could be reviewed without much trouble. “Nothing should be pur- chased in your component [or] in your department if it’s not under an existing system voucher,” one CIO said. “If you start finding shadow boundaries [or] if they’re not within your con- tained boundary, you’ve got to say, ‘Why the hell are we buying this?’” And CIO signature requirements could be added. “It’s not perfect, but it by and large works,” the CIO said. “My concern is it’s based on the relationship. I have a great relationship with my chief financial officer and my chief acqui- sition officer. But if they change, [whistles] that’s a lot of work to build that back up.” Establishing those relationships is the central task for most agencies’ FITARA implementation efforts, the participants said. And there’s no substitute for time-intensive, face-to-face interactions. “We went around individually to the staff offices, the CFO, the CAO...and talked with them, explained what the strategy was, shared with them what we believed their role was going to be,” one agency executive said. “There was a lot of clarifica- tion going on, and it led to a better partnership because now we knew who had responsibility for what role in FITARA.” “Face-to-face meetings are key,” another participant said. They create “a lot more trust and integrity. The change was scary.” “The discussion wasn’t about, ‘This is my authority now,’” the executive added. “The CIO said, ‘I have some objectives for implementing FITARA here. I want to drive down our costs. I want to make sure we go into contracts that don’t create ven- dor lock-in.’ They were objectives that certainly no one could disagree with. No one could say, ‘I really want to be spending more than I need to.’” A former federal CIO who now works in the private sector said government CIOs have the challenge of working across the entire organization. “It lives or dies on a few key relation- ships because your challenge as a CIO is to get everybody to move in the right direction, and unless mom or dad cares as well, then you have a problem.” And agency heads — the proverbial “mom or dad” — must be convinced that they should care. “They’re hearing all of this,” a current agency executive said. “They’re hearing FITARA, they’re hearing cyber sprint, they hear digital services, they’re hearing agile. Putting that in context for them is really important right now. They’re confused.” And even agency-head and CXO support are not sufficient, another former CIO reminded the group. “It’s really important that we recognize you’re not going to do agency transforma- tion out of the CIO shop or even the CIO and CAOs together. There needs to be mission-side governance.” Several agency participants said getting that buy-in depends on understanding the incentives. “Everyone wants to be part of a win-win situation,” one CIO said. “Make sure they under- stand that ‘I need you to be the executive sponsor, I need you to lead.... The outcome for you is going to be this mission suc- cess. Then if it doesn’t work, blame me.’” The participants agreed that the career employees farther down on the organizational chart are also important, as opposed to focusing only on shorter-term political appointees. The challenge at that level is often not buy-in so much as basic awareness, one executive said. “For some reason, it’s really hard to communicate all the way down to bottom-level 0116fcw_016-024.indd 20 1/6/16 9:37 AM
November and December 2015