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FCW : January and February 2017
January/February 2017 FCW.COM 25 government, but there are a lot of things that could be learned from the private sector about agility, and that’s why I think it’s going to be good for the services that government delivers to citizens. They work this way in the private sector a lot already, but the government’s way of approaching it has been, for the most part, pretty slow and difficult. Some major old-line contractors do business the way the government does business. What can TTS do to disrupt that phenomenon? It is much more about government being a bad buyer. We’re forcing industry to work this way. I don’t believe companies want to work that way necessarily. They don’t work that way with contracts in the private sector. But the government has required it. I step back and ask: What’s good for the American people? The way we develop software has changed alotinthelast30to40years.Itis much more an approach where you have a target of what you’re trying to accomplish and use that as a homing beacon with user feedback and iteration to constantly course-correct in the process of building it. That just works a lot better. The old approach a few decades ago, which I knew well, was the waterfall approach where you try to specify everything ahead of time. Instead of a homing beacon to try to sail to your destination, you’re trying to predict it all before you start out. There’s not that feedback into the way you work. It ends up being difficult and expensive, and when you’re done, it often doesn’t even solve the problem you were after or it doesn’t work. It’s just an older way of working. I’ve made that transition. I think other people can make that transition. And a lot of the companies we’re talking about should be able to make that transition. If they’re doing business in the private sector, they’ve already done it. The Government Accountability Office and the inspectors general don’t typically measure savings against the cost of doing things the same old way. How are you trying to tell that story? Iview what we do through three lenses. First, do we have our operations down well, are we doing what we’re saying on our budget and so on? That’s a central thing to do. The second is: What are the savings we’re having for the agencies that we’re working with, at least in a ballpark way? Because you can’t necessarily get that down to the penny. It’s hard to capture that, but we can get a ballpark. I’m trying now to collect credible ballpark estimates of how much we are saving the taxpayer. The third is the improved quality of service and the improved experience of someone interacting with the government. There are plenty of examples there — such as the cost to the economy in general and the frustration and the lack of confidence in government that it feeds. It’s harder to put dollars and cents on those things, but they are important. So those are told more through stories of that kind of impact. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer have tweeted support for keeping 18F. Are you hopeful that the organization will be allowed to grow and become permanent? We were thrilled with that. We’ve done what I thought was impossible, which was to have this level of tech talent coming in on a regular basis and connecting with agencies to do things that make a tangible difference in people’s lives. That’s amazing. Now that we know how to do it, that’s something that should get support from people on both sides of the aisle. What do you say to employees who have qualms about working in the Trump administration? Most of the people who are here could make a lot more money in the private sector and have a lot easier life, and they’re here because they want to make a difference in people’s lives. And they see the ability to do that as part of the government. That’s not partisan, and that doesn’t change. If you’re in the Department of Veterans Affairs, you don’t change your job because the administration changes. The work you’re doing is still super important. We feel the work we’re doing is super important. I don’t know if it will be unanimous — probably not, because people come and go for all kinds of reasons — but the predominant sense is to recognize that the work we’re doing is important, and we believe in it or we wouldn’t have been here in the first place. Are you staying? If I can make a difference, I’m here. I believe in this. I’m sticking around. n 0217fcw_022-025.indd 25 1/25/17 9:32 AM
November and December 2016