The Chief Information Officer’s Council is in search of a few young up-and-comers in the technology and acquisition communities to solve some of the most pressing problems facing the government.
The new IT Solutions Challenge is asking agencies to find and make available IT and acquisition professionals at the General Schedule 9 through 13 levels for a six-month program to identify and fix policy and process problems in how the government buys technology.
“The goal is to tap into the hands-on experiences of front lines and find innovative solutions based on their fresh perspectives,” wrote Tony Scott, the federal CIO, in a blog post on the CIO Council’s website. “We are focusing on these rising stars because looking at problems from a new vantage point will allow important issues to surface that may not have been realized otherwise. Teams will work with mentors to assist in brainstorming sessions, problem identification, work plan development, and execution. Each team will also have access to subject matter experts who can provide feedback and expertise as they work to develop solutions. In the fall, teams will present their solutions and work with IT leaders to discuss next steps on implementing these solutions across the federal government.”
The Solutions Challenge is part of how the council is reinvigorating its Workforce Committee.
Richard McKinney, the Transportation Department CIO and co-chairman of the Workforce Committee, said the initiative wants Web developers, business experts and others to devote maybe 15 percent-to- 20 percent of their time to this effort.
“We will bring them together and say, ‘Identify some problems you would like to solve.’ And then let them figure out how to design and create this solution,” he said. “We think we will get some great work product out of it. We also are trying to stimulate this community so these people begin to know one another and share ideas with each other. We think that will dovetail really well into what we hope is the federal government being able to strengthen its workforce around delivering digital services.”
McKinney said the focus on digital services is important as every agency has a growing need for employees with these skills.
The Office of Management and Budget told agencies as part of the IT budget passback guidance to set up digital services teams by Oct. 1. President Barack Obama also asked for $105 million in fiscal 2016 to continue the development of these experts.
McKinney said at DoT he’s been trying to figure out how to build a digital services team over the last few months.
“When it became this much broader priority for the government, I was thrilled because we really want to build this capability,” he said. “Those initial forays into the whole world of digital services [at OMB, at GSA and others] were proving to be very successful and OMB very wisely said, ‘Let’s build this muscle everywhere.’ If you have been following this over the years, the English government has stood up a central bureau of digital services. OMB may have looked at that model, but then said it would be better to build this muscle in the departments themselves right up against the businesses themselves. I think that is a wise move. I think all of us in the CIO community were really excited to see this support and this recognition that this is a direction we need to go into and that we need to develop these newer skills around digital service and agile development.”
Scott said the IT Solutions Challenge is part of how he wants to work with the CIOs as well as technology workers at all levels of government.
“I value the insight that the entire workforce can provide and am anxious to see what transformative ideas they come up with,” he wrote. “These rising stars will bring a new set of eyes to look at the way we do things, and the motivation and innovative mindsets to find solutions that — with the help of IT leaders ‐ can be implemented to create positive change across the federal government.”