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April 24, 2015

IT Solutions Challenge 2015 Problem Description - Lori Zimet

By Lori Zimet


I’ve worked in the Federal Government for over 13 years, but the vast of majority of government agency work remains a mystery to me. When I heard that my managers at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had nominated me for the CIOC IT Solutions Challenge, I was excited to participate in an exercise that would provide insight into the inner workings of the Federal Government that I haven’t yet encountered.

When we arrived at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building for a kick-off event on April 8th we were welcomed to the Challenge, introduced to the organizers, and informed that we would begin work the following morning. True to their word, we began by 9am. Using this opportunity to share our common challenges, as well as solutions implemented at agencies across the government, we spent the day brainstorming methods to improve the IT posture of the Federal Government. Tony Scott, Federal CIO, and Megan Smith, United States Chief Technology Officer, each gave presentations encouraging an open-minded, thought-provoking exchange of ideas. It is rare that members of the Federal workforce have the opportunity to meet and speak directly with Federal executives. Several layers deep in the workforce, we don’t often gain a view into the “big picture” of the entire Federal Government.

What I’ve learned in the past few days is the beauty of this challenge is not only in learning from the IT Solution Challenge mentors, but that these high ranking Federal Executives are also using this opportunity to engage with working-level federal staff through these discussions and workshops. I have ended the first day of this challenge on a team tasked to find a solution to the ongoing issues of ensuring the right recruitment and ongoing retention of Federal IT professionals. This problem has been apparent for a long time, crosses agency lines, and affects every resulting output of any information technology effort. Discussing the needs for IT staffing and for information sharing and standardizations across agencies, processes or systems could be developed to gain insight into our most valuable IT resource: the employees. Federal staff and management work every day to acquire the right equipment, set up and maintain operational systems, write policies, create code, manage IT projects, and ensure the secure transfer, access, and maintenance of information. The vast number of occupations needed to perform these tasks is staggering and we feel it’s worth the time to find out what is needed and how we can work as a cohesive government to ensure the right people are available at the right time, and that staff remains available and trained to move the Federal Government into the future.

Working within cross-agency groups, we have a unique opportunity to discover what is needed throughout the Federal workforce. Our group is composed of six members from five agencies. Bringing our various experiences to the table, we can discuss what’s right, and what’s wrong, with current policies and methods, and create a process and system to improve. We were encouraged to “be bold!”, and I think we’re off to a good start. With this blog post, I’ve completed my first homework assignment for the IT Solutions Challenge. I anticipate many more over the summer, and I’m looking forward to them.

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