CIO survey finds agile breaking through, but data analytics not so much

The 25th annual chief information officers’ survey highlights the simple fact that federal CIOs’ jobs aren’t getting any easier.

But what the annual survey by Grant Thornton and the Professional Services Council does show is real progress against an Obama administration priority, which in the end could make CIOs’ lives better.

George DelPrete

George DelPrete, a principal with Grant Thornton and the lead of the annual CIO survey, said that while the top priorities for CIOs haven’t changed much over the years, the biggest difference in the 2015 survey is the acceptance and use of agile development.

The survey found 91 percent of the respondents said they are using agile, and 33 percent of them are using agile as the default methodology.

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“I think that’s a good thing because, as the survey says, there are continued challenges in large-scale IT program delivery, and modular development is one way things are being broken up and improving the delivery of,” DelPrete said, in an interview with Federal News Radio, after he presented the survey’s findings June 8 at PSC’s Acquisition Technology conference in Falls Church, Virginia. “It’s a mixed bag for sure. A lot of agencies right now are doing pilots and just experimenting with agile. A lot of the agile is done over very small applications. We are not seeing a lot of agile used across the enterprise. There are very few agencies who are really using agile for everything and are mature at it.”

DelPrete said the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Veterans Affairs Department are among the two agencies that are at the head of the pack when it comes to this methodology.

He said the survey shows agile is evolving in the government and many agencies are just getting comfortable with the concepts.

“There is an evolution that still needs to happen there,” DelPrete said. “Most CIOs realize that the old waterfall approach to program delivery just wasn’t working, and they needed to find different ways of breaking things into pieces. They didn’t have enough qualified expertise at the program manager level to lead these multi-year programs. They become so complicated they had to use agile or modular development and break things into pieces in order to be successful. There have been some good successes and where people see success, they look at that as a way to potentially build on it.”

PSC took over the annual survey from TechAmerica when it obtained the TechAmerica Foundation in February.

PSC and Grant Thornton surveyed 67 CIOs, chief information security officers, other IT management officials and congressional oversight committee staff across 45 federal organizations between December 2015 and May 2015.

DelPrete said the other surprising item from the survey was the lack of data analytics and use of big data by agencies.

Most CIOs rated the use of data to drive key business decisions a 2 or 3 on a scale of 1 to 5.

DelPrete said many CIOs are struggling to get their arms around the data and pull the data that’s being created across the organization.

“They did say the quality of the data across the enterprise was pretty good. But we need to use tools like master data management and even enterprise governance to be able to have a lens into the data that exist and know what’s being produced and when and where it sits, so you can create approaches to pull it out and make business decisions,” he said. “Master data management is really an approach to know what data you have in the organization, how it’s used, putting it into different standards and basically having a way to access it, keep it secure and use it to make business decisions. It’s a way to make it easier to improve the quality of data at early stages, so you don’t have to do a lot of conversion when you are using that data.”

The surveys found only about 40 percent of the CIOs said they had this master data management plan. DelPrete said he expects more agencies to invest in these plans while also emphasizing the data skills of their workforce.

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