Frank advice from PS CTO, Johnny Barnes – Part 3: The Barriers and Challenges to IT Consolidation


Frank advice from PS CTO, Johnny Barnes – Part 3: The Barriers and Challenges to IT Consolidation

Thursday, May 5th, 2011 - 11:42
Thursday, May 5, 2011 - 11:40
Like most large enterprises, the Federal Government faces common challenges to IT consolidation, but its unique security and operational responsibilities imply heightened diligence.

When citizens and their political leaders are shivering about the federal deficit, Government IT managers are catching cold. With the right approaches to the many challenges, the path to IT Consolidation can be cleared to resolve the chill (i.e. save money).

In the midst of increasing processing and data demands, the key drivers for Information Technology (IT) consolidation at many federal agencies, as I have are cost reduction and energy efficiency. To reach these goals, the Federal Government established “cloud-first” policy and clear energy-conservation goals. Last year the Government Accountability Office (GAO) highlighted the key IT challenges facing the Federal Government: transparency, security, IT leadership/workforce, IT investment management, and governance – with the dark cloud of increasing federal debt haunting every decision.

The transparency challenge (i.e. “follow the money”) created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, propelled investment in websites, such as Federal IT Dashboard, allowing public web-based insight into the $80 billion plus federal IT investments.

Despite the guidance toward “cloud-first,” maintaining security presents a challenge to federal investment in “cloud.” As I elaborated in a prior post, the private or hybrid cloud environment can support moderate to high-impact Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) requirements. Whether traditional or cloud environments are being considered, security concerns exist if cross-agency resource sharing is being considered. This is especially true if the sharing agencies have different security profiles and/or where security roles/responsibilities are not well-defined. The above cited GAO reference underscores this stating that “federal agencies … have not yet fully implemented key elements of an agency-wide information security program.”

This leads directly to the challenges of leadership, investment management, and governance. Ravi Bansal, IBM Project Executive and a strategist at IBM Global Business Services, in his 5E Framework series, discusses this in his fifth "E" Execution. Execution means having skilled personnel and management, including governance, in place and on time. It’s vital to have the right IT personnel who are empowered with the right tools. Successful governance means representatives from all stakeholders with decision-making authority on the team – projects fail without this ingredient. Again, this is underscored by the 2010 GAO observation that “major change management initiatives in large private and public sector organizations…often take at least 5 to 7 years” and “agencies continue to face challenges in the length of tenure of their Chief Information Officers (CIO).”



Johnny Barnes, left, is the General Manager Technology and CTO for IBM's Global Business Services. He has more than 35 years of experience with IBM, holding a variety of product, solution development, staff, system architecture, management and executive positions.  Previously, Mr. Barnes worked to re-engineer IBM’s internal hardware development, global computing and telephony environments and grow IBM’s Public Sector transformation services business. 

Mr. Barnes has an overall perspective of the computer industry and its applicability to business segments, as well as IBM's strategic plans to meet the distributed computing and e-business on demand market to satisfy future critical business requirements.  Currently, Mr. Barnes oversees IBM’s WW Public Sector Technical and Solution Strategy and expanding IBM’s Public Sector transformation service business.