The Business of Government Hour

 

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The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The executives discuss their careers and the management challenges facing their organizations. Past government executives include Administrators, Chief Financial Officers, Chief Information Officers, Chief Operating Officers, Commissioners, Controllers, Directors, and Undersecretaries.

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Mayi Canales interview

Friday, March 15th, 2002 - 20:00
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Mayi Canales
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Sat, 03/16/2002
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Mayi Canales
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Arlington, Virginia

Friday, December 21, 2001

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and the Co-Chair of The Endowment for The Business of Government. We created the Endowment in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. Find out more about the Endowment by visiting us on the web at endowment@pwcglobal.com.

The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who's changing the way government does business. Our conversation this morning is with Mayi Canales, deputy chief information officer of the United States Department of Treasury. Good morning, Mayi.

Ms. Canales: Good morning, Paul. I'm very happy to be here this morning.

Mr. Lawrence: And joining us in our conversation is Jay Tansing, a PwC consultant. Good morning, Jay.

Mr. Tansing: Good morning, Paul.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, Mayi, let's start by finding out more about the Department of the Treasury, its overall mission and some of the specific agencies within it.

Ms. Canales: Treasury is actually one of the most diverse agencies in government. We do everything from promote prosperous and stable American and world economies to taxation to producing coins and currency to safeguarding financial systems to law enforcement and trade to protecting the President. We have 14 bureaus and we run the gamut of operations.

Mr. Lawrence: And let's find out about your role as the deputy chief information officer. What do you do?

Ms. Canales: I get involved in a little bit of everything. As the Treasury deputy CIO I help the CIO oversee strategic planning, capital investments, manage the direction of information technology enterprise solutions. I sit on the Treasury CIO Council and on the Treasury CXO Council, which is actually the human resource, the financial, the procurement, and the information officers all together meeting to address programmatic issues across Treasury. I serve on federal boards and committees, which I think you'll hear about a little bit later as we converse but I get involved in everything Treasury does.

Mr. Lawrence: How many folks are in the Office of the CIO?

Ms. Canales: Well, we have about 220 government employees and twice that in contractors. I think we have almost 500 contractor staff.

Mr. Lawrence: And what types of skills do they have? I imagined they're all technologists.

Ms. Canales: Some of them are policy-oriented. Many of them are technology-oriented but more and more in the government as we buy solutions from companies like PricewaterhouseCoopers what we're looking for in the government are program managers who understand IT issues but more have the management skills to make large-scale IT programs successful.

Mr. Lawrence: Mayi, let's spend some time talking about your career.

Ms. Canales: I started my life in the private sector, designing missile systems in the Navy as a consultant and went from there, after the Challenger accident with NASA I went to work as a consultant for NASA designing a quality assurance program to try to prevent any future Shuttle accidents which I'm proud to say so far so good.

And then from there, I met someone who took me kicking and screaming into government life, but I have to tell you that I have enjoyed it thoroughly. I have met hardworking, talented people and I'm having a blast. I started with the Department of Veterans Affairs in their headquarters in what became the Office of the CIO. It wasn't called chief information officer back then but doing the strategic planning, the financing, nationwide solutions, and now I'm with Treasury and am the chief information officer and still having a blast.

Mr. Lawrence: You mentioned that you worked in the private sector before joining public service. How did those experiences impact or prepare you for your career as a public servant?

Ms. Canales: I think it just made me very resourceful. As a consultant one day you're working with NASA, one day you're in Army, one day you're in Marines, one day you're Navy, and you get to know all about government, which is interesting because you think internally people would get to know more about government, but what I found is that people get to know their agency and their mission very well but it's hard for them to get to know other agencies and other missions.

I think as e-government grows that will change a little bit because we have to get to know each other but the private sector just made me very resourceful. I got to know all the parts of government. I got very good at presentation skills and exposure, I think, just exposure.

Mr. Lawrence: How would you contrast the cultures? Some would have us believe that the public sector and the private sector are very close and very similar. Others would say that they're very different. How do you see it?

Ms. Canales: Well, I think that in the private sector as you get to huge companies, they actually aren't that different from government. The issues are the same. They have massive cogs that you have to turn to get anything done. That's historically what people say about government. How do you get anything done? But in the past two years where I've been with Treasury and the Federal CIO Council with the partnerships we've created we've done incredible things.

E-government has really moved quite a bit in the past two years. We've got FirstGov out there, the government online portal. We've got committees out there looking at processes across government, so I'd say large companies are very much like the government.

The smaller companies, they go in and they're like pinch-hitters. They go in and they attack a certain thing and then they go somewhere else and you're just exposed to little pieces and parts. You have a specialty item, so those are very different.

Mr. Lawrence: What drew you to public service and what keeps you here?

Ms. Canales: What drew me to public service was a very nice now passed away but a retired general who needed some help. The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing some nationwide networking and mail implementations and things like that, and he just didn't have anybody onboard to manage those contracts who understood the issues, who understood what a router did and how it connected to other things and what the heck a wide area network was and how people talked to each other.

So he brought me onboard and said just stay with me for three years and get this done and don't worry; it will be good for your career. And it was. I mean, I've had a wonderful time. I've done great things and right now I'm staying because I'm having a great time and I believe in what we're trying to do with e-government. With the new administration and Mark Foreman (?), who's come in to do e-government for us across the board in the federal government, I really believe in what we're doing. I think it's the right thing to do.

Mr. Lawrence: What are the skills that a CIO needs? I mean, you've moved between being a business leader and a technologist. Could you break the job apart into a couple of those categories?

Ms. Canales: Actually, you said the key word there. The technology background that I have, technology degrees, helps a great deal. I mean, I know what people are talking about. I know when somebody's trying to sell me something I don't really want. But what helps me a lot, I think, is my business degrees and the business background, understanding what government's trying to do, because if you think about it technology is there to support business and if we don't understand our business and our mission and what we're trying to do the technology doesn't make any sense so I think it's the business skills.

But I've found that the most successful people in life are people who take the time to listen; they're honest, they're fair, and they just treat everyone with respect and dignity. And in the higher levels that's what's most important.

Mr. Lawrence: Do you think those skills of a good leader are going to change as more and more of life becomes technology-enabled?

Ms. Canales: I don't know that they will need different skills. They'll have to understand how to read e-mail and send things electronically and approve things on a screen versus with a pen and paper. But I think, still, anybody who's a good enough leader to run a nationwide corporation or an agency that has impact around the world is going to understand those things.

I think the skills are still going to be important that they understand their business, they have whatever the business or mission, like with Treasury, a strong economic background is a good thing, but I think still just being able to listen to your managers that you have working for you who are actually responsible for getting things done and treating people fairly with respect and dignity I still think are the strongest things a good leader is going to have.

Mr. Lawrence: What are the management challenges of working with such a highly- specialized team as you have? They all probably have advanced degrees and they're all probably trained in these kinds of things.

Ms. Canales: No ego because they all know far more than I do. And I think the challenge comes when you have to make those tough decisions when the room can't agree and you need to make a call about which way to go on something and not everybody's going to be happy because as you change things, for instance, with e-government the talent or the task is not the technology, really.

I mean, it's combining processes, like, say, trade, commerce, Agriculture, Treasury, Transportation, Justice. We all have pieces and parts of that. If we combine that into one process imagine the culture change across those agencies. People's jobs are affected. Not that people would lose jobs but their jobs might change.

People don't like that. They don't want to change. They're very comfortable for the most part. People hate change. The change management or, I should say, the management of change, the facilitation, the people skills, are the critical things we need today.

Mr. Lawrence: How about the challenges of managing or dealing with a workforce that is, as you indicated a couple of questions ago, has a high component of nongovernmental employees?

Ms. Canales: Frankly, I hire companies like you. A company like PricewaterhouseCoopers is familiar with the issues, you have the technical talent, you can swap in a networking talent person one day and a web talent person the other day, which I cannot do in government very easily.

Mr. Lawrence: A lot of people don't think it has as many benefits as you describe and they say well, some jobs are inherently governmental and we ought not do that. Do you feel any of that tension or see that?

Ms. Canales: I think some jobs probably are inherently governmental. There are policy decisions, massive funding efforts, and, yes, somebody in government will always have the case that we truly are not interested in where that money goes. And in the private sector even an honest broker you're allowed to own stocks and things that I'm not allowed to own.

For instance, I don't own any Microsoft stock so that I can make Microsoft decisions without any impact to myself financially. You are allowed to have those things and personally you may have drivers that I don't have. So there are some things that I think need to stay inherently governmental but I need advice. And if I bring in advice from companies like PricewaterhouseCoopers or Bozo- Allen or other companies that are in the business of doing that I'm going to get across-the-board advice.

I use companies like GIGA (phonetic) and Gartner and Metta. They do research for me. They tell me what best practice models are out there. I can't depend on one honest broker, obviously, but I think definitely we need that more and more.

Mr. Lawrence: That's a good stopping point. It's time for a break. Rejoin us after the break as we continue our conversation with Mayi Canales of the Department of Treasury.

Are you aware of the latest goings on in e-government? Well, you'll find out about it from her when The Business of Government Hour continues. (Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and this morning's conversation is with Mayi Canales, deputy chief information officer at the United States Department of Treasury. Joining us in our conversations is Jay Tansing, a PwC consultant.

Well, Mayi, in our first segment you talked about your role with the CIO Council. Could you tell us about the Council and what it is it does?

Ms. Canales: Well, we're on the federal and Treasury CIO Council so I'll start with Federal. The new political appointee, Mark Foreman, who is the OMB Director for IT and e-government that we're working with federally, chairs the Federal CIO Council and my boss, actually the CIO of Treasury, Jim Flyzik, is the vice chair of the Federal CIO Council. We've reorganized recently to meet the demands of the new e-government movement on the President's management agenda.

We've structured into three standing committees, workforce and human capital, which are some of the key issues in government and, I think, in the private sector as well best practices where we have the models and looking at what people have done in industry or other governments that might be useful to us as we do things. And then we have government-wide architecture and infrastructure looking at the underlying standards and tools that we all need to interoperate or talk to each other across governments, local, state, and federal, not just federal.

Then myself and Craig Luigart, the CIO of Education, used to be the e-government committee. Well, everything is e-government now so what we're doing is we're coordinating for the e-government committees that are out there. We're trying to coordinate with the CFOs and CIOs and procurement people federally. We have what's called the Quad Council that we meet with. We coordinate with the state and local government. We provide the program management for Mark so that we all have performance metrics, business cases, business skills, access to somebody doing research for us, white papers as we look at models and things like that, so we provide all the underlying structures for Mark to kind of get e-government moving.

The Treasury CIO Council is really quite similar. We function as a board of directors for Treasury managing the enterprise solutions, what we're going to do together, how we want to spend our money, what are the underlying frameworks that we all have to live with, for instance, architecture.

Mr. Lawrence: Now do these councils really do their work? You mentioned coordinating, which is sometimes persuasive and not managing or directive. How do they get work done?

Ms. Canales: Well, in the Treasury CIO Council really we don't mandate. We look at what has the most value for us and it really is a business decision and we agree on certain business decisions like portal technology for one. We wanted to have a framework that makes sense across Treasury so we could do communities of practice like procurement, where we have may one agency or bureau taking the lead on enterprise procurement. Well, that means all the procurement people need to function as one procurement shop, so a community of practice or an interchange of information that's secure and reliable and makes them look and function as one community is something that made sense to us.

Records management, we were all looking at workflow, document management, records management. Only one bureau, the Mint, had done anything at all with document management. So rather than build 14 solutions we decided well, this is a good enterprise endeavor so we're doing that together. Our architecture, of course, is an enterprise endeavor, things like secure transactions, PKI technology, public key infrastructure, where we use that to authenticate and provide secure transmission of electronic files. We're doing that together. In fact we're doing that federally together.

But on the federal level it's a little bit different. We had a task force look at different e-government initiatives and what we should do federally and we had, I think, about 100 submitted from the different agencies. We interviewed all the key agency leaders, CIOs, deputy CIOs, deputy secretaries. I don't think they interviewed any secretaries. I'm not sure but they interviewed key people in all the departments, and we picked what was most important.

Many similar things fell out like travel, records management, architecture, PKI for secure transmissions, and then other things fell out, business processes that crossed many agencies like trade, grants, wage and tax systems that we deal with all the businesses on. But on the federal effort the key thing was citizen-focused, result- oriented. So we tried to pick things that citizens really wanted and had been asking for through the years and things that helped us in dealing with reducing the paperwork burden on businesses and states and local government, things that made life easier.

Mr. Lawrence: Are there barriers to coordination?

Ms. Canales: Definitely. The culture barrier, which I think we talked about a little bit earlier today, where it's going to be a change, things that happen across many agencies where each agency had its own little portion. Agriculture might be looking at just the farming issues associated with trade or things coming into the country associated with food. Transportation is concerned with the transport vehicles coming into the country. Customs is concerned with the law-enforcement side of imports. INS is concerned with the people coming into the country.

So we all had our own little systems that dealt with just those pieces. Now we're going to have a system that deals with the whole thing and that system is the easy part. It's getting all those people to work together as one seamless process that's the hard part.

What if you're applying for a student loan online, you have all the information there, and then you happen to be downtown one day and you walk into the Department of Education? You should be able to get the same service even if your loan was from the Department of Veterans Affairs because it really was a GI student loan. People don't really know where it comes from. They don't really care. Government needs to adapt to that. That's the hard part. That's the barrier.

Mr. Lawrence: E-government is a large part of what you're doing in your role on the federal and the Treasury CIO councils, and FirstGov is one of the big e-government initiatives. Can you tell us a little bit about what the involvement is in this project, and how will you measure its success?

Ms. Canales: FirstGov is for the first time a single entry into all government services. At first we started with just informational components but now as we progress we're moving more into transactions like student loans online, passports on line, grants on line. Not that agencies didn't have those pieces and parts by themselves, but this gives is more of a federal look and feel and all the components are in one place.

So if you look at FirstGov as the entry into government it's going to play a vital role. It may provide all of the tools and standards, the security. It may provide the architecture for us to the search engines. It will play a vital role in everything we do in the e-government arena across government.

I think as we grow in FirstGov, too, at first it was just federal. Then we started doing searches on states and the next link will be local. So it really is trying to tie all the levels of government together. I think the success will be measured by its popularity, how many people use it, citizens, businesses, how many people are coming in through FirstGov and finding what they need through FirstGov.

Mr. Lawrence: Let me ask you to take a step back and give us your definition of e-gov. I know you've described the transactions, and I've imagined doing them while you're doing it. Is that what e-government is all about?

Ms. Canales: Actually, that's the last piece of e-government. I think e-government is probably as little about the technology as about anything else. E-government is providing government in various forms to citizens and businesses, providing what they want from government in an easy way, whether it's online, which is most people think of e-government, a Web page, but if you think about it you should be able to walk in, fax, call, go online, do whatever.

E-government is providing government as a business process, in other words providing loans as a business process, providing trade as a business process, providing grants and assistance to agencies or other entities in business process, looking at that service as a whole. That's what I think e-government is.

Mr. Lawrence: What are the challenges of rolling that vision out while also dealing with the needs for privacy and security? One imagines filling out the loan as you've described, giving information or perhaps having information about me already resident at the place where the loan is being asked for. So how are you going to pull those together?

Ms. Canales: I know we will do all the tools and standards for security and privacy across government as one of the e-government initiatives. I have to say I have my favorite anecdote. People will hand their credit card to a complete stranger in a restaurant. That complete stranger who usually is not anybody you'd known on a regular basis just walks off with your credit card for 20 minutes, leaves it lying around where complete strangers can get it, and then comes back after a while and you sign for it.

People think of online security as being such a mysterious thing because it is online. I think what it is that scares people is that there is so much access to information. It's not just your credit card. It's everything about you and everything about everyone around you.

What we need to provide is a sense of comfort to people that shows this is the risk factor you're taking, and it should be minimal. Nobody is going to guarantee complete risk-free anything whether you're paying with your credit card in a store or whether you're going online to Southwest Airlines buying an online ticket. They can tell you this is the security we provide and we need to in government provide that, and the technology is out there to provide it whether it be biometrics, whether it be smart cards, or whether it be public key infrastructure with certificates.

Spain is looking at a solution where people go to the post office or to their mint, which does their currency and coins and identifies themselves, prove that they are who they are and they get a certificate, and the certificate works when they go online and buy government services. We just need to do something similar. It's not rocket science. So we need to find similar ways of doing that but the technology exists.

Mr. Lawrence: That's a good stopping point because it's time for a break. Rejoin us in our conversation with Mayi Canales from the Department of Treasury. This is The Business of Government Hour.

SPEAKER: How can your agency cultivate a culture of innovation? Find out by downloading the Endowment's new report "Understanding Innovation: What Inspires It, What Makes It Successful," by Jonathan Walters at endowment@pwcglobal.com. (Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers. This morning's conversation is with Mayi Canales, deputy chief information officer at the United States Department of the Treasury. Joining us in our conversation is Jay Tansing, a PwC consultant.

Mayi, we ended the last segment talking about e-government and I was left with a couple more questions. Where are we, the US federal government, relative to the rest of the world in e-government?

Ms. Canales: I think the US is just starting when you think about e-government. What's happened in the past few years is agencies as they respond to the need to put their services online have created, like, Treasury Online and Agriculture Online and Justice Online. So we have recreated government online with the existing building stovepipe, so now we have stovepipes online. Yes, it's fun. So now what we need to do is take those stovepipes and make e-government and business processes online.

So I think in this country that's an incredible challenge. If you look at a country like the UK that has really, really come a long way or Australia or Spain is just starting they just make the decisions to do these things, and their government is one country which is sometimes smaller than Texas and so they can get their hands around it easier. They're organized differently than we are.

For instance, all their health care services are in one place. They might be at the local and at the equivalent to our federal level but they're under one ministry. So we have it where not only are we huge, but then our health care is in five different places, our grants are in ten different places, our trade crosses 40 different entities, so we have that issue as well.

Mr. Lawrence: Where do you think e-government is generally in its life cycle?

Ms. Canales: In this country I'd say we're in the very, very early stages of planning and design because I think we actually have to take a step backwards in some cases and deal with the fact that we have all of these online services which don't talk to each other, maybe are not doing things when you look at whole process, and are not accounting for pieces and parts of that process. So I think we actually have to take a step backwards and look at some of those things, start sharing some of these tools and advances that we've made, and then maybe start doing away with some of the things we have out there and replacing.

Mr. Lawrence: Mayi, the Klinger-Cohen Act of 1996 changed the landscape of IT in government. Can you talk a little bit how this act has been implemented and its impact on Treasury?

Ms. Canales: Sure. The Klinger-Cohen Act, as you know, created CIOs, chief information officers, for which I am forever grateful because I love my job but I think some of the things that it made us look at are IT as investments. IT used to be we're getting the big end of year money dump, how many PCs can we buy, and there was no sense of what those PCs would support or standards or how we were going to fit them into our business processes.

So IT is now made an investment. We have a capital investment review board at Treasury as all the other agencies do. We have councils that function as board of directors like the Treasury CIO Council and the Treasury CXO Council which I mentioned earlier that has the CFOs, the financial, the procurement, and the HR people working together to identify all the administrative issues.

I think that the Klinger-Cohen Act made us look at performance metrics, how do we know if we're successful. Trade is my favorite example because yes, we have all these great systems that are online but guess what. The truck is still sitting for four hours on the border. Success ought to be getting that truck through the border as it drives up, everything cleared and secure.

Mr. Lawrence: The president's management agenda focused on e-government technology and many of the issues we've already talked about. How does the president's management agenda impact Treasury or affect Treasury? How does it roll out?

Ms. Canales: Treasury is very involved in four initiatives specifically for the president's management agenda, at least the e-gov portion, which is what I'm familiar with. We are directly managing the Easy-Tax initiative, which has to do with online tax filing and reporting. We are directly managing the unified and simplified wage and tax reporting with Social Security as a very strong partner to deal with the businesses that have to do all those forms for wage and tax reporting.

We are directly involved with Commerce as the managing partner. We're the strong partner in streamlining the trade process and we're also the managing partner on the wireless initiative, which provides interoperability or the ability to communicate across local, state, and federal entities for public safety.

Mr. Lawrence: What does it mean to be the managing partner for an initiative?

Ms. Canales: "Managing partner" is another word for lead but it's not just that you take the lead on an initiative because we are creating what we call program management offices. Those program management offices are not just the managing partner, in other words Treasury creating this management group and making decisions. They're staffed by, say, for the wireless initiative people from FEMA, people from Justice, people from Homeland Security. They are helping us make the decisions. They're helping us with the investments.

It means that we're pooling our money if we're playing nice together, which I hope we will, so it just means that we are creating the entities, the tools, the support structure for these other people to join in and be very strong decision makers in the overall effort.

Mr. Lawrence: How long is that supposed to take?

Ms. Canales: The 23 initiatives that we have defined right now for e-government under the president's management agenda are 18- to 24-month initiatives, doable initiatives. But as we're working on those we're going to be looking at the future, next steps, so maybe we'll do additional things with wireless. Maybe wireless will be done in 24 months and we'll move on and do case management. Who know?

Mr. Lawrence: How does the office of the CIO use performance-based management to promote effectiveness of agency operations? And how are the performance standards established and evaluated?

Ms. Canales: We have for investments performance standards that are related to the mission or critical business need of the investment. Like I mentioned trade, the truck coming across the border would be a metric. Waiting lines at the border would be a metric. So our metrics are changing to be related to whatever business we're supporting.

On performance-based contracts we're making some progress there. We've defined incentive-based contracts which are you come over, you help us do this, and we'll pay you out of the savings. For instance, we have one with several companies where we're looking at telecommunications. I'm going to pull numbers out of the top of my head but say I spend $200 million a year on telecommunications services nationwide. Well, say a company can come in and say you know what, you can do that more efficiently. You can do that for $100 million a year. I'll come in. I'll define the efficiencies, you only pay me if I save you money. That is the easiest form of performance-based contracting there is.

But on other contracts where we buy a solution or a service we're taking away the metrics which used to be, at least in the IT world, very IT-oriented, like, the system must be up 99.9 percent of the time with a turnover within five minutes should anything go down to the fact that agents out in the field in Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, ATF, have access to their information immediately.

For instance, like, wearable technology is a solution. They have access to case information on an investigation that they're doing. Immediately online all the time they can plug stuff in so another agent across the country has the same information on a related case. That's a measure. So those are the types of metrics we're looking at.

Mr. Lawrence: What are the challenges to implementing performance-based contracting or even performance-based management? It seems too logical and clear as you described it.

Ms. Canales: The challenges are contracting challenges mostly. We need to redefine contracting in government. It used to be very specific where you would bring pieces and parts in and deliver them and set them up and hopefully they would work but now we're not doing that any more. I'm trying not to own any pieces and parts.

But contracting has had the biggest hurdle to jump here trying to define a contract where you guys are my partner, I'm opening up my books to you, you guys know how much money I have, which is forbidden in the government world. Show the books? Forget it. That way they would know what you're spending.

But if I'm buying a service from you how can you do it appropriately if you don't know what my budget is and what I have and where I need to streamline? So that's been the biggest hurdle is the contracting rules and regulations are not exactly created that way and we're trying to find innovative contracting methods and incentive-based contracting like what I described is one that has worked for us.

Mr. Lawrence: Accountability is also a big issue. How do you drive accountability into the IT investments that Treasury makes?

Ms. Canales: It's interesting because you go up on the Hill and you testify and you see the CIO testifying about modernization for Customs or INS and that's about as accountable as you can get. But I think what's interesting is that the IT people are now testifying on the business processes and what you're doing for the business and you're saying these are the things that I'm going to improve and this is the end state that you will see two years from now and I'm going to deliver this. Every year you will see these features.

We no longer say it's going to take me five years and you'll get this gray box at the end of five years. We're going to say it's a five-year effort. You will see these improvements in year one, these improvements in year two, these improvements in year three, and we're measured on that. We have scorecards. At Treasury every CIO employee has a scorecard that is directly related to the goals and strategies of Treasury for that year.

Mr. Lawrence: How has having such a scorecard affected performance and also even the culture?

Ms. Canales: Well, it's been interesting. At first they hated it, of course, because, like, my God, you're measuring me. You want to know if I'm doing my job. You don't trust me. But it's interesting. It's created a sense of I'm doing this to improve financial stability around the world. You see the link. Here is the goal, stabilize the economic markets around the world and then improve financial systems within Treasury, create the following mechanisms, IT employee working on this, this, and this. It directly relates to that. It really gives them a sense of being there for the mission of the agency.

So it's been a couple of years to get to that sense, but I think they now understand why they do the things, which made no sense in the past.

Mr. Lawrence: That's a good stopping point. We got to go to a break at this segment. Rejoin us in a few minutes as we continue our discussion with Mayi Canales at the US Department of the Treasury. In the next segment we'll ask her to pull out her crystal ball and tell us about the future of technology in government. This is The Business of Government Hour. (Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and today's conversation is with Mayi Canales, deputy chief information officer at the US Department of the Treasury. Joining us in our conversation is Jay Tansing, a PwC consultant.

Mayi, in our conversation so far you've been talking about technology and the different things that might happen. So I'm curious. How will technology affect federal employees in the way they do their jobs?

Ms. Canales: I think you'll see a lot more of being able to do your job anywhere anytime type employees. Unfortunately, I am now accessible 24 by 7 with e-mail, phone, paging, and it's all in one little box. I can do my whole job from a little wearable device but it's interesting.

I think that we now are not limited to our offices. We can work from home, agents can work from the field, and you have access to everything you normally have access to your desktop, and I think that's the biggest change I see.

Mr. Lawrence: Will it affect how the government is managed. For example, old models or hierarchical structures or ratio of managers to employees 1 to 7 or whatever that was, and now with technology how will that change?

Ms. Canales: I think it will make it easier for managers. A lot of what took so much time in the past was the paperwork, signing memos and routing them around and some person physically walking this memo around because it had to get out that day. Now I send a memo out and I send it to six people and I can either structure it so it gets approved serially or all at one time and I can say give me your input and it's all there electronically and I get all their input at the same time and I can make decisions right away and get it out right away. So I think as far as workflow it's made our lives so much easier.

I think you'll see lot more in government of, as I mentioned earlier, program managers where they're managing solutions and services and not managing people. So I think you'll see a lot of that type of change.

Mr. Lawrence: How about in terms of the technology and its impact on citizens?

Ms. Canales: I think you know anybody who has kids or has watched kids in grade school, in college, in high school nowadays, they don't wait in line for anything. They do everything online. I'm even that way and I'm in my mid-forties. So I think, as this next generation grows up government better be responsive and provide government in lots of mechanisms online, offline, buildings, phone, fax. I think government needs to adapt to that and provide the services based on what our citizens want. I think our citizens of the future are online citizens, and I see governance going online.

Mr. Lawrence: Are there any interesting new technologies on the horizon that you're looking at that you think will play an important role in Treasury's overall activities in the future?

Ms. Canales: Yes, I think wearable devices are going to play a critical role which is wireless technology but for solutions where agents can wear devices that allow them to (1) get access to information, (2) see things that you see these virtual components where another agent is in another area and they can actually see that other agent and what that agent is seeing and what's he's dealing with and things like that.

I think in health care, which is not a Treasury mission, technology is going to play a huge role, people with wearable devices that tell them go to the hospital because in the next five minutes you're going to have a heart attack. Imagine the life saving that that will have. So I think wearable devices and wireless technology are the hot things coming up.

Mr. Lawrence: How far away do you think that is?

Ms. Canales: It's here. It's here. It's not all over the place but it's like DVD players. They're under 100 bucks now and they used to be 1,000. So you'll see them more and more.

Mr. Lawrence: We hear a lot about the difficulties that the federal government is having in recruiting and retaining employees, especially technology workers. Can you describe the Treasury's Information Technology Work Force Improvement Program?

Ms. Canales: Yes. We actually have several features but I think the one thing I'd like to mention up front is that in the old way of thinking people used to take a job and they'd stay with that company or with the government 30 years until the day they retired. In the private sector you guys have adapted very well to the fact that sometimes you get somebody in three years and then they get bored and go away.

In the government we are just learning that. It's okay to come and work for the government three years and then go somewhere else. That keeps you getting new blood. You don't need everybody staying for 30 years, which is a new mentality in the government.

I stick out like a sore thumb because I have never had the same job for three years ever in my entire life. I get bored and I move on or I might stay with one company but I work Navy one day, NASA another day, and health care another day. What Treasury is trying to do to address some of those issues is creating program managers and project managers.

We've got two interesting programs that I'd like to mention, the executive potential program and the management potential program. The executive potential program is for what are called GS-14s and 15s, which are one level down from the top, the Senior Executive Service, and it trains them and it sends them to different facets of government and private sector and opens them up to things like what happens on the Hill, what happens in OMB, what happens in other agencies, how does the private sector deal with this. It gives them team building and facilitation skills and business classes. So we've got that. It's an 18-month program, and it sets them up for Senior Executive Service.

Then we've got the management potential program, which is the next level down. I believe it goes to GS-13s and 12s. I'm not sure of the grades but it does the same thing. It prepares them to be senior IT managers in the government, and it opens the up to program management skills, team- building skills. Performance-based contracting is one of the things we're teaching them in there. So it's interesting. We're trying to build a succession ladder.

Mr. Lawrence: Are those retention tools? Normally when we talk about acquiring IT workers people think about just recruiting but I'm curious about retention because I'm imagining by the time people are in Treasury and they develop these specialized skills they have other opportunities perhaps in the private sector but also in other parts of government.

Ms. Canales: Right. I'm not as worried about retention because I think if you're providing a place where somebody is growing and happy that will happen. But what I've found is that even when people leave and go somewhere else, especially if they go to the private sector, generally their skills are coming back to help Treasury anyway.

When I was a CIO for one of the health care networks in the Midwest I lost three people I could say to Cisco. Sure enough, within a year those people were back helping Cisco identify ways to improve the health care network that I was in. So I got them back anyway because they liked to stay in the area, that's what they know, and they had better jobs. They were happier but they were still helping me, so that was fine.

But even if they leave and they go to another agency it's still for the good of government or for the good of whatever technology. So I'm not as concerned about the retention factor as I am about the factor of giving people what they need to do their jobs and making them happy at work and making them feel like they are well- respected and cherished employees.

Mr. Lawrence: I know there was talk on the Hill of having ways whereby I think technology workers could move across the sectors to get more training. You've done that in your career but I'd be curious about how you think that might work.

Ms. Canales: With the federal CIO council work force program we do have mentoring initiatives where we share workers at the different levels. They'll come and they'll do a year; they'll come and they'll do three months. It depends on the initiative they want to work on but we share them. I've personally had four or five in the two years I've been at Treasury, four or five people that have come over in mentoring programs and worked with us, and I have two people currently out on mentoring programs in different agencies right now.

Mr. Lawrence: What were the lessons learned?

Ms. Canales: They love it. They come back and they have all sorts of new ideas and did you know they did this or guess what, I showed them what we did with this. And they'll be working with something, something budget-related especially, which tends to cross our agencies now, and they say I know who to call over there and they call somebody especially when you send somebody on a detail. In fact I have a third. I just remembered I have somebody on a detail at OMB, and he's learned all of our budget contacts, I know who to call who can answer that, and it really excites them. They like it.

Mr. Lawrence: What advice would you give for a young perhaps who's perhaps interested as a career maybe a CIO?

Ms. Canales: Actually, I would say a technology background is great but when you get your masters or you go on for your advanced degrees get a business degree, focus on business, even get something you like. Like, if you're interested in finance or health care or something like that get a health administration degree or a political science degree or a finance administration degree. Focus on an area that you like and learn the business.

Mr. Lawrence: How about in terms of the types of experiences that they should be having, should they be trying to work on very technical projects or large groups of people? What would be the most relevant experience?

Ms. Canales: I think it depends on what they like to do but it helped me as I was growing up in technology to be very technical at first and to understand what the issues really are because when engineers come to me I understand their pain, I hear their pain, and that means a lot to them. I may say no but I understand what they're talking about and that means more to them than I can say.

Mr. Lawrence: Our final question, what's your vision of the office of the CIO for the next ten years at Treasury?

Ms. Canales: I think it will be an investment management firm. I believe that we're going to be doing investment management, making decisions about where to spend money, how to streamline things, not just at Treasury but across government because Jim likes to talk about the government blob. My boss, he likes to say government as we do these business processes across you're going to see a blob of government that's focused on trade and a blob of government that's focused on grants and you shouldn't in the future to be able to tell where people work.

Mr. Lawrence: That's a good stopping point, Mayi, because I'm afraid we're out of time. Jay and I want to thank you very much for joining us this morning.

Ms. Canales: I enjoyed it thoroughly. Thank you.

Mr. Lawrence: Did you have a website that you wanted to mention?

Ms. Canales: Yes, actually I was going to plug FirstGov so people can see what we're doing across government, www.FirstGov.gov, and I think that on there it tells you the new things coming up with e-government.

Mr. Lawrence: Great. This has been The Business of Government Hour featuring a conversation with Mayi Canales, deputy chief information officer of the US Department of the Treasury. Be sure and visit us on the Web at endowment@pwcglobal.com. There you can learn more about our programs and research and you can also get a transcript of today's fascinating conversation. Again, that's endowment@pwcglobal.com. This is Paul Lawrence. See you next week.

Mayi Canales interview
03/16/2002
Mayi Canales

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