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April 25, 2017

The GITEC Summit in Annapolis this year focused on the continued transformation surrounding the management of information technology for mission-critical functions at government agencies. I was pleased to participate with top IT and management talent from across government and industry and hear the progress happening on many fronts.

Transforming Project Management and Services at the VA

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has made tremendous strides over the past year in support of our veterans, said Rob Thomas II of the agency’s Office of Information and Technology (VA OI&T).  The VA has transformed the OI&T over the past 18 months, a transformation driven by the sheer size of the VA, changing veteran demographics, shifting business partner needs, rising public expectations, and the rapidly changing and advancing IT landscape.

As a first step, the VA established a strong Enterprise PMO (EPMO) organization within OI&T. The EPMO serves as the “control tower” for all projects and services that OI&T performs on behalf of the VA program areas, including Benefits Administration, Healthcare, Cemeteries, and Corporate Services (e.g., HR, finance, etc.). Through this approach, the VA realigned 1,400 staff under a new, single project management function, aligned 300 projects to a portfolio-based framework, and transitioned over 200 projects into a new agile-based management process called VIP. This transformation will enable OI&T to become a world-class organization that provides a seamless, unified veteran experience through the delivery of state-of-the-art technology.

The VA OI&T also recognized that customer service is paramount to the success of any IT organization, so they established an Account Management Office and assigned IT account managers to collaborate closely with business partners in VHA, VBA, and NCA. By thinking more strategically, they are moving to an “enterprise thinking” model, implementing strategic sourcing, reducing complexity, and institutionalizing deeper accountability for staff and contractors alike. An expanded risk management team eliminated redundant systems, fixing weaknesses and vulnerabilities in their IT enterprise to protect Veterans’ data and information.

Although much progress has been made, Thomas acknowledged that the VA still has more work ahead. IT systems modernization poses the biggest challenge - a multi-dimensional problem involving funding, technology, and program support. It’s complicated to be sure. As one of VA’s major support contractors, CSRA’s VA Enterprise Cloud Service Broker contract team is advising the agency on how best to navigate these challenges to achieve IT systems modernization.

Anticipating the New Administration’s IT Agenda

The USDA’s CIO Jonathan Alboum and DISA Director Alfred Rivera shared how they are getting ready for the new administration’s IT agenda.They believe it will push for further IT modernization, shared services initiatives, and increased efficiencies such as consolidation of duplicate systems/capabilities.As an advocate of more shared services across the federal space, Alboum highlighted the USDA’s shared services model and the success they’ve enjoyed with services like their National Finance Center, which has made an impact not only at the USDA but also across the federal government. Rivera shared how DISA’s role for over two decades has been providing shared services to the Armed Forces—in fact, many years before the term “shared services” was coined.

It’s encouraging to hear that cloud services, employed as part of the federal government’s shared services initiatives, are in the forefront of the new administration’s IT agenda. The cloud creates many challenges in the federal environment, including security, smart procurement methods to avoid vendor lock-in or expense, and payment models that do not align well with federal rules and financial practices.

Addressing the Needs of Tomorrow, Today

It was heartening to hear the progress and success stories shared at GITEC, but there is much more work to be done. The new administration appears to be building on the prior administration’s efforts to achieve digital transformation across a diverse portfolio of business-focused and citizen-centric systems. The focus is on their ongoing efforts to modernize legacy systems, leverage contemporary COTS, implement cloud, and utilize open source technologies in combination with Agile and DevOps approaches. These priorities reinforce how we must anticipate the government’s needs for tomorrow and deliver them today.


Atacan Donmez has 30 years of experience leading service-delivery organizations that support complex system-transformation programs in the Federal government health IT market. Atacan is responsible for program development and strategic advancement in CSRA’s Health & Civil business unit. He utilizes his deep technical expertise combined with business acumen and management skills to identify customer needs and develop transformation solutions for health IT capabilities to address those needs, enabling successful healthcare reform, improving healthcare quality, and maximizing patient results. His clients include Departments of Health and Human Services and Veterans Affairs.