The Business of Government Hour

 

About the show

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.

The interviews

Join the IBM Center for a weekly conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business.

Rose Parkes interview

Friday, January 14th, 2005 - 20:00
Phrase: 
"As CIO, my top concern is cyber security but we also need to look at enterprise solutions and standardizing our infrastructure so we can better protect it. We must address these IT concerns as we move DOE into the future."
Radio show date: 
Sat, 01/15/2005
Guest: 
Intro text: 
Technology and E-Government...

Technology and E-Government

Magazine profile: 
Complete transcript: 

Monday, November 22, 2004

Arlington, Virginia

Mr. Lawrence: Good morning and welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, partner in charge of The IBM Center for The Business of Government. We created The Center in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. You can find out more about us by visiting us on the web at businessofgovernment.org.

The Business of Government Radio Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. Our conversation this morning is Rose Parkes, chief information officer at the U. S. Department of Energy. Good morning, Rose.

Ms. Parkes: Good morning.

Mr. Lawrence: And joining us in our conversation, also from IBM, is Dave Abel. Good morning, Dave.

Mr. Abel: Good morning, Paul.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, Rose, let's start by talking about the mission of the Department of Energy. Could you give us a background and a historical perspective about it?

Ms. Parkes: I certainly can. DOE's history dates back to World War II and the Manhattan Project, which created the world's first atomic bomb. After the war, there was an obvious need to control the promises and perils of nuclear energy, so the Atomic Energy Commission was created to oversee all U.S. uses of nuclear energy, both military and civilian. The landmark Atomic Energy Act of 1954 allowed commercialization of nuclear energy and granted the AEC authority to regulate the new civilian nuclear power industry.

During the 1970s, the persistent energy crisis became the impetus for the creation of a single agency with responsibility for all government energy activities, both nuclear and non-nuclear. The Department of Energy was created on October 1, 1977.

Since its creation, the department's mission has changed several times to meet specific national requirements. In 1970, the emphasis was on the energy shortage. In the 1980s, the department concentrated on nuclear weapons research, development, testing, and production.

Since the end of the Cold War, the department's mission has been to advance national economic and energy security, to promote scientific and technological innovation, and to ensure the environmental clean-up of the nuclear weapons complex. So our four major missions today are science, energy, environment, and defense.

Mr. Lawrence: It's funny the way you summarize that, or it's ironic perhaps, because as you summarized that I began to think about other departments with exactly those names in it. Could you tell us about the interactions between the Department of Energy and its relationship with other departments and agencies?

Ms. Parkes: Why certainly, and we do have interaction with several agencies. Let's talk about environmental clean-up. The department works closely with the EPA and other related agencies to ensure that the environmental remediation activities that we're undertaking are compliant with applicable laws and regulations.

The continued nuclear stewardship of the weapons stockpile requires close coordination with the Department of State and the Department of Defense. Like many federal agencies, Department of Energy is involved deeply with the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that the critical infrastructure if protected. The nuclear nonproliferation mission is accomplished in cooperation with the State Department and also the Defense Department.

The wide variety of projects underway at our national laboratories requires constant interaction with many federal agencies, each with their own mission requirements. So you can see that the Department of Energy has a far-reaching cooperative partnership with many of the departments across the federal sector.

Mr. Lawrence: How do you describe the size of the department, in particular the number of people and the types of skills they have?

Ms. Parkes: What's interesting about the Department of Energy is that we are about 93 percent contracted out, and have been since our creation. The Department of Energy has about 16,000 federal employees and about 100,000 contractor employees. Our annual budget is about $23 billion. We have 8 national laboratories, 13 technology centers, and several operations offices and field offices.

The department's federal and contractor employees have an extensive assortment of both familiar and exotic skills. The exotic skills include energy science, environmental restoration, microelectronics, nanotechnology, genetic research, those kinds of things. These are only a few of the many hundreds of skills that our employees possess. The Department of Energy and its predecessor agencies have always been at the cutting-edge of science, and, since 1977, DOE has sponsored 41 Nobel laureates.

Mr. Abel: Rose, let's focus in a little bit on your organization and a bit of your career background. What are your responsibilities and duties as the chief information officer in the Department of Energy?

Ms. Parkes: Maybe the best way to think of a federal CIO is to think carefully about the role of information technology in a federal agency or even in a large private company. Information technology today is the lifeblood of the business that we do. Without it, neither an agency nor a private company could perform; could not function. A broad description of my job is to plan and manage DOE information technology systems throughout their entire life cycle, from the earliest conceptual efforts to the eventual replacement of those systems. I'm responsible for creating a vision of the department's information technology activities and ensuring that that vision aligns with the department's strategic plan and its strategic missions; we just talked about those. As I said before, information is critically important. I'm charged with ensuring that information is treated as the valuable corporate asset that it is and, also, to help attempt to run the department in a more business-like way instead of being a bureaucratic federal department.

Another important responsibility that I take very seriously is the security of the department's information technology systems. Since 9-11, cyber security has become more important than ever because terrorists attempt to damage or use our information technology systems in ways that threaten our national security. The Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996, which created the position of chief information officer for each federal agency, also requires that information technology investments, like all capital investments, become part of the budget process. So those, in a nutshell, are my responsibilities as the CIO for Department of Energy.

Mr. Abel: Rose, I'm real interested in the career background and in the steps that you've taken to become the CIO of the Department of Energy. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and other positions that you've held along the way?

Ms. Parkes: Certainly. First of all, I am a career civil servant. I spent 28 years in the Department of Defense. I started out as a programmer with the punch cards and the rubber-banded card decks. I became a systems analyst. I spent a lot of time on the road installing standard base operating systems for the military. And then through that experience learned all of the facets of the business in those days, which meant design, development, implementation, operation. So that was kind of a soup-to-nuts thing in information technology. Also, I spent several years as an operations research analyst working for the Army, designing, developing, and distributing and evaluating training that was provided to enlisted soldiers in the Army worldwide.

The last 11 years that I spent in DOD, I worked to consolidate the commissary systems for separate services into a defense agency. While the concept of consolidation was a sound business decision, the actual accomplishment was quite challenging. The agency inherited a plethora of automated systems and it really took us three years to standardize and stabilize the IT support for that agency.

I also spent two years at FEMA working with disaster recovery and one year at FEMA under DHS. So my DOD experience in consolidating 4 services systems into a defense agency gave me a great appreciation for the huge job that DHS had to do consolidating 22 agencies and 170,000 employees. And certainly that's a huge job.

You can see that I started out as a programmer and worked my way up, became a program manager, project manager, did those kinds of things.

Mr. Abel: Do you feel like those experiences help you in fulfilling your responsibilities today?

Ms. Parkes: Oh, absolutely. I've grown up with the technology and I've experienced the evolution from mere processing of data to managing information as the valuable resource that it is. I've worked at all levels and all phases of the life cycle. I've managed projects from a few million to $100 million. I've learned the discipline and structure of solid project management; learned to manage cost, schedule, and performances variables. I've managed program managers. I've taken the agency's strategic goals, built the IT strategic plan, developed action plans and annual plans, built the business cases and the budgets to support them, and then measured progress against the metrics for those plans.

Mr. Abel: Now you mentioned the role you had with FEMA as it moved into the Department of Homeland Security. How different were you responsibilities as the CIO at FEMA than they are at the Department of Energy? Are they similar or different?

Ms. Parkes: I think the overriding role of the CIO is the same. The CIO must provide advice on information technology investments to the agency head. The CIO needs to build customer relationships. The CIO needs to look at a road map, an enterprise architecture. But there are differences given the mission areas.

At FEMA, my primary focus was on providing disaster victims with support, and that meant an emphasis on building those disaster field offices quickly. That meant almost instantaneous telecommunications support; it meant reliable and stable applications to provide that disaster assistance to disaster victims.

At DOE, we're standardizing our infrastructure. And our focus there is to protect it, because we have valuable national assets that need protecting. We're focused on reducing vulnerabilities. We're institutionalizing our solid business-like processes to better manage the department and its resources.

So the role of the CIO, while it has similarities across agencies, also has specific requirements given the mission of that particular agency.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, that's interesting, especially the part about consolidating the systems for DeCA. E-Government is one of the areas called out in the President's Management Agenda. What's the Department of Energy doing in the area of E-Government? We'll ask Rose Parkes of the department to explain this to us when The Business of Government Hour returns.

(Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence and this morning's conversation is with Rose Parkes. Rose is the chief information officer at the Department of Energy. And joining us in our conversation is Dave Abel.

Mr. Abel: Rose, we've heard a lot recently about portfolio management throughout the government, and I understand that the department was recently able to compile a portfolio of its IT investments. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Ms. Parkes: Certainly, Dave. DOE's IT portfolio grew from a few hundred million to 2.7 billion over 3 years. This increase did not represent a growth in the IT investments. What it did represent was a much more comprehensive identification of IT across the complex. It was important because the first step towards improving governance is visibility of what you have. Because we're concentrating on consolidating our corporate business systems and other like functions, we see that we're reducing the number of investments that provide that kind of support. We're also seeing that we're increasing the number of IT investments that support our very critical missions. So compiling the portfolio was the first step, ensuring that there was a complete portfolio.

Second was looking at trends given what's happening with E-Government across government and also within the Department of Energy. Consequently, what we've done is we have provided a solid baseline for managing our IT investments within a portfolio.

Mr. Abel: You mentioned that one of your objectives is to be able to standardize the IT infrastructure. And in the first segment you also mentioned that the DOE is highly contracted, they've got a high proportion of employees that are contractors as opposed to federal employees. How has the department approached the challenge of standardizing its IT infrastructure, particularly in the challenging environment that you have with so many contracting organizations?

Ms. Parkes: Right. When we have a challenge as great as standardizing our infrastructure, we take an incremental approach. And the first increment towards standardizing our infrastructure is one of our DOE internal E-Gov initiatives, the Extended Common Integrated Technology Environment, or EXCITE for short. EXCITE standardizes the desktop services; network management; e-mail and messaging services; help desk; hardware and software acquisitions, including replace and refresh; and provides for an application-hosting environment for standard applications within the department.

We began standardizing in our headquarters in last fiscal year. We'll complete that this fiscal year and we have a plan to continue to our field sites through our program offices. So you can see that because we are a large department and because we do spend a lot of money on IT that taking these steps, these small steps, will get us to where we need to be eventually. And we've started with EXCITE, which is our desktop delivery, and we are completing our headquarters deployment and we'll move on to our field sites.

Mr. Lawrence: Rose, you mentioned E-Government and, of course, that's one of the areas called out in the President's Management Agenda. How's the department doing in the area of E-Government?

Ms. Parkes: Our secretary and our deputy secretary early recognized the value of the President's Management Agenda, including the E-Gov initiative. And there's been a lot of emphasis at DOE on completing all five initiatives, original initiatives under the PMA. We as a department support the presidential initiatives, including the lines of business.

We have developed and are maintaining an enterprise architecture that aligns with the federal enterprise architecture. We score, remediate, and rescore our business cases so that they pass muster at OMB. We certify and accredit our operating systems; we're up to 90-plus percent with a goal of 100 percent. We instituted a project manager training certification course and all of our PMs are certified. And we're institutionalizing earned-valued management system by creating a project office within the Office of CIO to help the program offices in computing their earned value.

Mr. Abel: A few moments ago, you mentioned a program, an initiative called EXCITE. I'd like to take a second and ask you some questions about another initiative you have called Project IDEA, which is the innovative Department of Energy E-Government applications. Can you tell us a little bit about this effort?

Ms. Parkes: Yes, of course. IDEA was the internal effort at DOE to look at like-functions across the enterprise, to consolidate them, and to ensure that there was a reduction of duplication. IDEA actually was a task force that was put together in 2002. That task force identified 19 separate initiatives that would fit the model of E-Gov, that is create once and use many. And the IDEA program focused on those functions -- corporate business functions, mission functions -- that could be consolidated across the enterprise.

Mr. Abel: Underway you also have efforts to standardize your reporting systems and your financial management functions. Can you tell us a little bit about where you are in those processes as well?

Ms. Parkes: Yes. You're referring to our standard accounting and reporting system, which is certainly an IDEA initiative. We are customizing the Oracle financials to support he general ledger, receivables, payables, funds distribution, and reporting in financial management. This initiative also has allowed us to look at our business practices and to more align them to what the package produces rather than creating additional support within the package for unique Department of Energy requirements.

We've also standardized the interface for 27 contractor feeder systems. So this is high on our agenda to ensure that we are standardizing financial management within the department.

Mr. Abel: Now we know from previous conversations that financial management doesn't stand on its own. It fits together with other functions like procurement, budget formulation, human capital. What's the relationship between the financial management program and these other areas of business?

Ms. Parkes: If you look at the financial management module, it is one of several modules that makes up DOE's enterprise resource plan. We are moving towards an integrated approach that includes budget, procurement, human resources, supply chain, management, and also includes a corporate data warehouse to provide the kind of analysis, corporate reporting, and management decision information so that our leaders can make good, solid management decisions. Our objective is to have a fully integrated set of corporate business applications that support decision-making at all levels of the department that is a set of modules with an umbrella name of I MANAGE. And that is really DOE's implementation of an enterprise resource plan.

Mr. Lawrence: Let me go back to something you mentioned when you were talking about the accomplishments in the area of E-Government. One of the things you were specific about was the concept of enterprise architecture. We hear this a lot. Since you are the CIO maybe you could explain to our listeners what this concept is and why is it so important?

Ms. Parkes: I told you that I'd grown up with the technology and certainly enterprise architecture is a wonderful thing. You would not think about building a house or a building without an architectural plan. Why would you think about building an IT enterprise without an architectural plan? And that's all the enterprise architecture is. The enterprise architecture is the road map that, first of all, defines where you are and what you have, and then allows you to determine where you need to be and how you're going to get there.

So an enterprise architecture is nothing more than a floor plan, it's nothing more than a road map to where you need to be. And having worked, again, in the industry for a long time, that is so valuable. Because what you also know when you have this valuable road map or floor plan is that what you're building is being built in an incremental fashion and does not have to be thrown away, it can be incorporated into that plan.

So you have a house, you build several modules of that house, and all of the modules fit together. You have an enterprise architecture, you build an incremental set of capabilities, and you know when you're finished all of those capabilities will integrate and interface.

Mr. Lawrence: How interesting. I think the house analogy makes it very clear, thank you. One of the ways the Department of Energy deals with management issues is through its Management Council. What is the council, who's on it, and what do they do? We'll ask Rose Parkes of the department to tell us about the council and how they deal with management challenges when The Business of Government Hour returns.

(Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence and this morning's conversation is with Rose Parkes, chief information officer of the Department of Energy. And joining us in our conversation is Dave Abel.

Mr. Abel: Rose, earlier you mentioned the Clinger-Cohen Act in 1996, and that it established chief information officers throughout the federal government. Can you describe how this office has been established specifically within the Department of Energy?

Ms. Parkes: Certainly. Within the department, as within other departments, I think there were a lot of growing pains with where and how the CIO should be placed. Early on, the new position in the department was layered down in, first of all, the security office and then in the Office of Management Budget and Evaluation, the CFO's shop. In October 2001, the CIO achieved assistant secretary status and became a member of the DOE executive management team. The CIO now reports to the deputy secretary, who is the department's chief operating officer. I believe that this is the optimal placement for the CIO because in this way the CIO provides advice to the most senior departmental officials and is substantially involved in significant department management decisions.

Mr. Lawrence: I understand that the department has a Management Council to review management challenges across the department. Could you tell us more about the council, who's on it, and what type of issues do they address?

Ms. Parkes: I think that the Management Council is one of the highlights of Department of Energy's implementation of the President's Management Agenda. The Management Council was established by the secretary and is chaired by the deputy secretary. The council meets once a month. The overall purpose of the council is to oversee implementation of the PMA and to achieve resolution of critical issues.

The Management Council has two subordinate management organizations, which facilitate the work of the council. The first is the PMA executive owner's subordinate organization, and those of us who are PMA owners report directly to the associate deputy. The second is the PMA coordinators, and they are mid-level career managers who are responsible for coordinating PMA activities throughout the organization. PMA coordinators' organization ensures that individual offices follow an integrated approach to management reform.

The Management Council was very carefully crafted to achieve concrete results and to advance the President's Management Agenda. The Management Council also focuses on short-term resolution of critical issues, and these issues range from cyber security improvement to improvement of the coordination process within the department headquarters. Critical issues by their nature are often difficult to resolve. The Management Council offers a mechanism by focusing senior leader attention to resolve these problems that might otherwise not be addressed.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, let's talk about resolving critical issues. How does the council track its progress as they work through some of these difficult things?

Ms. Parkes: Well, the first thing that the Management Council does is it assigns responsibility for a critical issue to a senior executive. He or she is then responsible for developing and implementing a detailed action plan to get from concept to results. Ownership of the plan extends both vertically through each level of the agency as well as horizontally among different components. An interoffice task force supports each initiative and becomes the engine that drives change. This way everyone is involved, everyone has ownership, everyone is accountable.

All Management Council activities are tracked using internal scorecards that mirror the PMA scorecard. Program and support offices are graded quarterly on their progress. Grades are red light, yellow light, and green light, and this generates a healthy competition among the offices. I think this is a very effective management approach because it breaks down the bureaucratic walls and gives everyone ownership of the issues within the department.

Mr. Lawrence: Let's talk about specific management challenges that your office has sought to tackle. Could you talk to us about the challenges associated with IT security and the ways your office handles them?

Ms. Parkes: Cyber security has been a concern for several years within the department and that is because we have such critical national assets that we need to protect. In 2003, we recognized that we needed to update and augment our security policies. So our management challenge focused on getting those policies written, coordinated, and institutionalized.

In 2004, we focused on implementation of those policies, including incident reporting, which also included negative incident reporting. We'd not been doing that very well with the department, so we focused on negative incident reporting. We focused on the security policy that deals with wireless technologies. In 2004, using our internal scorecard, we were able to track the progress of each of the program and support offices in implementing these policies.

DOE-wide, we also completed our inventory of operational systems and increased the number of certifications and accreditations, as I mentioned earlier, to over 90 percent with a target of getting to 100 percent in this fiscal year.

Mr. Abel: I understand that IT governance is also a concern for your office. Can you tell us what the concept of IT governance is and some of the issues that you face in implementing it?

Ms. Parkes: Yeah. I think the basic concept of IT governance is to have capital planning and investment control in place, and that means generating the business cases, that means ensuring that the investments are viewed like other capital investments as part of the budget process. Institutionalizing that capital planning and investment control process was first on my list. We've made great headway by developing business cases and building our IT portfolio, I talked about those earlier. Over the next year, we will also refine the portfolio and review the progress of each of these investments through our IT Council. In doing that we use our quarterly control review process. And the IT Council brings together representatives from across the department, so there is a visibility across the department of the IT investments.

We've also made great headway in training and certifying our project managers. So the next step is ensuring that the validity of the cost, schedule, and performance information that's being reported in our quarterly control reviews is robust. We are also training the earned-value management capability. Earned-value management is a tried-and-true way to do this, so we've created an EVMS project office within the Office of CIO to help our program offices ensure that they're doing earned value the right way.

Mr. Abel: In the previous segment we talked about a number of initiatives that you have underway. We talked about I-MANAGE, we talked about STARS, we talked about IDEA, portfolio management, and a handful of other initiatives. What are some of the management challenges that you face in implementing these initiatives and how do you handle them?

Ms. Parkes: I think the greatest challenge that I have at Department of Energy is institutionalizing these processes across the complex. I think that involves a culture change, and this is where our Management Council and our deputy secretary play such an important part. Because I mentioned earlier that our Management Council focuses on issues, focuses on progress, and by bringing together task forces that are a cross-section of the organization allow a buy-in to each of these initiatives. And I think that's probably the best way to change the culture and to ensure that these processes are institutionalized. The Management Council, the task forces under each of the committees, have proven to be the best tool for helping to change that culture, helping to change the business practices within the DOE and improve the management across it.

Mr. Abel: Now one of the things that results from that, from a department-wide initiative, is an abstraction of the initiative and a difficulty in being able to measure and manage its performance. What are some of the tools or techniques that you use to be able to manage the performance of these programs as they make their way through the department?

Ms. Parkes: Earlier I mentioned that we have internal scorecards, and these scorecards do focus in on program and support office progress against an established plan. The red, yellow, and green light charts are an effective way of doing that. Our associate deputy secretary does attend to yellow and red scores for the program and support offices, and clearly everyone wants to compete and get to green. I think it's an important impetus and I don't want to underemphasize the competition that is there among the program offices. So there is a monthly meeting of the Management Council where problems can be surfaced, and there's also a quarterly report card that is publicized across the department.

Mr. Abel: It sounds like there's some healthy competition focused on the success as well.

Ms. Parkes: There is always healthy competition.

Mr. Lawrence: That's interesting. It's also interesting to observe how powerful the red, green, and yellow score system really is. Should the chief information officer in a cabinet agency be a career civil servant or a political appointee? We'll ask Rose Parkes, CIO of the Department of Energy, for her perspective when The Business of Government Hour continues.

(Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence and this morning's conversation is with Rose Parkes, chief information officer of the Department of Energy. And joining us in our conversation is Dave Abel.

Mr. Abel: Rose, I understand that the Chief Information Office has three strategic goals. Can you describe these goals and talk about your plans for achieving them?

Ms. Parkes: Yes, Dave. We just finished an off-site, so it's timely to talk about what we're doing in our IT strategic plan. We do have three goals and the first one is to simplify access to DOE information and products. Obviously we support the E-Gov initiatives and we have a migration plan for each of those. We are a participating partner in the LOBs, we're managing the financial management line of business with labor. And we've discussed the internal DOE initiatives that provide for common functions across the agency, so we're simplifying access to DOE information and products.

Our second goal is to institute a robust governance program within DOE. We talked about the capital planning and investment control process. We talked about our quarterly control reviews. We talked about using our IT Council to review the investments, to look at the earned value for each of those investments. What I didn't talk about was the institutionalization of a remediation process, and we've done that.

We're developing and maintaining our enterprise architecture. We've aligned our IT investments to an existing DOE order on project management. We've charted a change control board to ensure configuration management. We've begun looking at enterprise licensing agreements. And we've developed a human capital workforce plan working with our HR group.

And our third strategic goal is to reduce the number of cyber security vulnerabilities at DOE. Obviously we're complying with FISMA. We're beginning independent validation and verification of the certification and accreditations of our operating systems. We're implementing a comprehensive DOE-wide security management program that supplements and augments the security plan published by our secretary in May. We have fully implemented incident reporting to include negative incident reporting.

I did mention that we're driving to complete 100 percent certification and accreditation this year. We are, according to the new OMB criterion, implementing standard security settings for operating systems within our enterprise.

Mr. Abel: In the beginning of the program you gave us a very interesting view into the rearview mirror of where the Department of Energy has been, from working with the development of atomic energy through the energy crisis. As we look forward, what are some of the challenges that the department is going to face in the future?

Ms. Parkes: We have to go back to those critical missions. And DOE will protect its U.S. citizens by reducing and preventing the proliferation of nuclear materials. DOE will increase the supply of dependable energy by managing the strategic petroleum reserve and by strengthening efforts to develop alternative fuel sources. Obviously nuclear power will play an important role. DOE will safeguard the environment and public health by accelerating the department's clean-up program. DOE will protect our energy infrastructure by implementing the critical infrastructure protection plan, working through the power marketing administrations to improve the protection of the 33,000 miles of electrical transmission lines.

So what is the role of the CIO in this? I have three priorities and they are cyber security, cyber security, cyber security. But also, we need to look for enterprise solutions for records management, for knowledge management. We need to look at standardizing the infrastructure so that we can better protect it. These are IT concerns for me as we move Department of Energy into the future.

Mr. Abel: So technology is a critical component of being able to meet the mission needs of the department going forward.

Ms. Parkes: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Mr. Lawrence: I'd like to shift gears here. There's much debate over the role of the CIO and whether that position should be a career civil servant or a political appointee. What are the pros and cons of either option?

Ms. Parkes: I think if we focus in on the role of the CIO today, I believe that there is a place for both a political appointee and a civil servant. Let's talk about what a careerist would bring to the table. First of all, a careerist can provide continuity through a transition, just as we're going through today. A careerist understands the federal environment, including the acquisition, which is sometimes a puzzle, statutes and regulations. A careerist knows the ropes and how to get things done. The careerists form a close-knit community of professionals with the network intact.

What do political appointees bring to the table? I think they also bring some unique talents and capabilities. First of all, they usually bring a fresh view from the private sector. They bring new ideas, technology savvy. They understand business-drivers. They're accustomed to business-like practices. And because usually they've been profit-driven, they are results-driven.

So I think there's a place for both, the careerist and the political appointee. I think it's a matter of looking at the agency, where it is in its evolution, and how best to fill the job of CIO.

Mr. Lawrence: When new CIOs call you up and ask you about the job, what kind of advice do you give them in terms of how to be successful?

Ms. Parkes: Well, first of all, I'd love for a CIO to call me and ask for my advice. I'm hoping that we have a succession plan. I know that we need to look at replacements for CIOs within the federal sector. My best advice is you have to learn to communicate. You have to learn to communicate to your stakeholders. You have to learn to communicate to your customers. And I think that's probably the most important quality that a CIO brings to the table. If you don't communicate, how can you tell what a great job you're doing?

You have to learn to listen. You have to learn to listen to what your users need. You have to learn to listen to what your stakeholders require. And most of all, I have to go back to what one of my associate CIOs says. And he says that the mind is like a parachute, it only works when it's open. And I think it's very important for a CIO to keep an open mind, to be flexible, and to understand the environment.

Mr. Lawrence: Rose, if I remember your description correctly at the first segment when you talked about your career, you described some number of decades being a public servant, and what I heard was a person who had devoted most of their professional life to public service. So I'd like to ask you what advice would you give to a person perhaps just starting out their career who's interested in public service?

Ms. Parkes: First of all, let me congratulate you for opting for public service because you'll never get rich being a public servant. And I think it's important to note that within the public service there are so many opportunities to effect national policy from positions that are within an organization. I think it's also important to note that the federal government provides many avenues for training and increased formal education. That's very important. And in a lot of positions, a federal employee gets to work on the cutting edge of technology. I'm thinking about the Department of Defense, weapon systems; also electronic commerce, those kinds of things. So I think that you get a leading edge, but you've got to hang in there.

One of the best pieces of advice that I think I can give is look for opportunities to widen your horizons, to deepen your experience, to widen that experience base so that you're not concentrated on one area within the business, but that you learn all of the functions that bring together this great IT support system within the federal government.

Mr. Lawrence: Rose, that'll have to be our last question. Dave and I want to thank you for squeezing us in your very busy schedule this morning.

Ms. Parkes: And thank you very much. This has been a wonderful opportunity to talk about the Department of Energy and to talk about IT in general. For those whom I've piqued an interest in in what the Department of Energy does, please visit our website at www.energy.gov, and go to the CIO page if you're interested in finding out more about what we're doing in IT within the department.

Mr. Lawrence: Thank you, Rose. This has been The Business of Government Hour featuring a conversation with Rose Parkes, chief information officer of the Department of Energy. Be sure and visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org . There you can learn more about our programs and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness, and you can also get a transcript of today's very interesting conversation. Once again, that's businessofgovernment.org.

I'm Paul Lawrence. Thank you for listening.

Rose Parkes interview
01/15/2005
"As CIO, my top concern is cyber security but we also need to look at enterprise solutions and standardizing our infrastructure so we can better protect it. We must address these IT concerns as we move DOE into the future."

You may also

Broadcast Schedule

Federal News Radio 1500-AM
  • Mondays at 11 a.m. Fridays at 1 p.m. (Wednesdays at 12 p.m. as
  • available.)

Our radio interviews can be played on your computer or downloaded.

 

Subscribe to our program

via iTunes.

 

Transcripts are also available.

 

Your host

Michael Keegan
IBM Center for The Business of Government
Leadership Fellow & Host, The Business of Government Hour

Browse Episodes

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Recent Episodes

11/13/2017
Dr. Barclay Butler
Defense Health Agency
Component Acquisition Executive
11/06/2017
Dan Chenok
IBM Center for The Business of Government
Executive Director
11/06/2017
Haynes Cooney
IBM Institute for Business Value
Research Program Manager,
11/06/2017
John Kamensky
IBM Center for The Business of Government
Senior Fellow

Upcoming Episodes

11/27/2017
Donald Kettl
Professor, School of Public Policy
University of Maryland
12/04/2017
Jeanne Liedtka
Professor of Business Administration
University of Virginia