Thursday, May 24th, 2012 - 14:02
The U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) relies on information
and technology to carry out its
mission—it depends on the availability
of and access to timely and
reliable information and on the technology
that makes it all happen.
Both are strategic assets to an agency that understands managing these resources efficiently and effectively is essential to its success. In fact, it was the 19th largest federal civilian agency in terms of IT spending in FY 2010, with a budget of $466 million.
“EPA’s IT investments,” says Malcolm Jackson, assistant administrator, Office of Environmental Information, and EPA’s chief information officer, “are focused on supporting the agency’s mission to protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment—air, water, and land.” Jackson leads the office that has as its charge identifying and implementing innovative information technology and information management solutions that strengthen EPA’s ability to achieve its goals. It works to ensure the quality of EPA’s information and the efficiency and reliability of its technology, data collection, exchange efforts, and services while managing IT capital investments.
Jackson identifies a host of key priorities that frame his vision for EPA’s IT strategy. Coming from the private sector, Jackson wants to run IT like a business. “First, you have to understand the business process and what you’re trying to accomplish. You get that business process in place and you marry the technology to it,” declares Jackson. Along with this priority, he also emphasize delivering high-quality services to his EPA colleagues, strengthening internal and external partnerships, finding the right talent, and most of all establishing a clear strategic direction for IT across the agency. “IT strategy at a federal level is more challenging than in the private sector. The funding model in government makes it far more challenging, so I wanted to build a roadmap for the future that takes into account this funding model and aligns it with what we’re trying to accomplish as an agency,” says Jackson.
Making his vision a reality certainly presents challenges, but it also offers opportunities to transform how EPA uses IT. “We’re an enabler,” Jackson explains. “You can have leading technologies, but we don’t lead with technology in terms of solving problems.” This insight informs his leadership approach. “We’re moving away from where technology is today to where it’s going. We want to march toward that horizon now, so we’re making very strategic decisions that are pragmatic in nature and aligned with where we need to take the agency.” This involves maximizing IT investments, ensuring decisions are mission-focused and cost-justified. These investments can range from new citizen-facing services to systems that help government employees perform their jobs more effectively. “I want to make sure that the taxpayers know that we’re spending their money in the most appropriate manner,” explains Jackson. “We’ve instituted an IT governance model that ensures we’re investing monies in the most appropriate manner without duplication. This governance model spans across the entire agency; it enables us to have transparency, input, and collaboration around our investments.” For example, Jackson embraced the Office of Management and Budget’s TechStat process. He partnered with Barbara Bennett, EPA’s chief financial officer, to review all major IT investments. “We wanted to ask probing questions, be more collaborative, and challenge people to view things from a One-EPA or agency-wide perspective. I’m comfortable where we are, but there are opportunities to continue to do better and realize better outcomes.”
Read the entire interview.