Everyone agrees that the $80 billion dollars spent annually on federal IT systems could be better managed. Not surprisingly the problems are multidimensional and span many functional areas. Therefore, there are efforts to make IT acquisition more agile and more effective, efforts to attract and retain top digital technology talent, and efforts to better manage projects and risk. Divide and Conquer on a federal level.
Although the approach seems sensible, it hasn’t been effective. The problems within the IRS, VA, or HHS, for example, are vast and agency specific; adoption of best practices across agencies has been too slow; and top change agents have been diluted across these functional areas.
Instead, we should focus all of our talents, energies, and ideas onto a single agency or problem. Remember the success that a dedicated few tech gurus had with fixing the Healthcare.gov website? Imagine what we could do if we had a larger team fixing the way we process immigration services or redesigning the way the Social Security administration processes checks. Once we have solved one of these seemingly intractable problems we would have the energy, momentum, talent, source code, and lessons learned to tackle even greater problems. Instead of divide and conquer, let’s solve the problems one at a time.