Alan Balutis, a Distinguished Fellow and senior director for North American public sector for Cisco Systems’ global strategy and consulting arm, wrote in a FedScoop article published Friday the lack of authority of agency chief information officers could be one of the reasons why agencies are slow to transition to the General Services Administration’s $50B Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions telecommunications contract.
“But even if the head of that area can gain top-level attention, CIOs themselves often don’t report at a high enough level, don’t participate in budget deliberations, and don’t have the clout to push through major changes,” Balutis wrote. “This in spite of heroic efforts by Congress to strengthen the roles and responsibilities of departmental CIOs. So they aren’t positioned to drive change, speed transitions to new technologies or business models, and so on, even when that might bring increased capabilities and/or cost savings.”
During his time as the first CIO at the Department of Commerce, Balutis discussed how the department used some incentives to encourage agency components to accelerate their move to GSA’s new telecom contract back then. He noted that the department analyzed each agency’s current telecom spending and predicted the spending once the agencies transitioned to the new contract vehicle.
“We indicated that they could choose not to transition immediately, but if that was what they decided, they would have to absorb the higher cost in both program and administrative accounts,” Balutis wrote. “Having access to the agency head, elevating it above those who might be wedded to the status quo, and making the choice a stark one involving real dollars (especially ones that might touch mission activities not merely ones that could be considered ‘overhead’) made a dramatic difference.”