The Tennessee Valley Authority hasn’t changed the construct of its chief information officer’s office since 1989. So it’s no surprise when the time has come to modernize the office, it’s going to be painful for a lot of employees.
TVA informally told 108 employees earlier this week that they will be laid off sometime in between April and June if they do not find new jobs inside the agency.
“By telling these employees now, it gives then notice to start looking for new jobs inside TVA or with outside companies. The formal notice of their separation will come later this spring,” said Malinda Hunter, a TVA spokeswoman. “We will help them with resume writing and by bringing in local companies who are hiring. Chattanooga is a high tech place and there are a lot of technology job opportunities here.”
The reduction in force equals about 20% of the total CIO’s 500 person workforce and will impact employees who work on software development and engineering. TVA already RIF’ed 12 workers from the IT shop earlier in 2019 making the total number of employees impacted 120. The authority has about 10,000 total employees.
Jeremy Fisher is TVA’s vice president and chief information officer. He has been in that role since February 2019 and has worked at the agency since 2000.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press first reported the decision to reduce staff.
“The decision has been a long time in coming. We started looking at how to transform our IT department 18 months ago so we hope it wasn’t a surprise for employees,” Hunter said. “We have been benchmarking others in industry to see what a modern IT department looks like.”
TVA found its 30-year-old model focused too much on in-house development and were not taking advantage of commercial software development practices.
“It’s a hard and difficult decision when you impact employees and that’s why it was made over a long period of time,” Hunter said. “But we have to make a decision that is best for TVA and we think the new model will make us more competitive as far as igniting innovation across the agency.”
Gay Henson, president of the Engineering Association, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that 96 of the employees are represented by the EA union and she has “huge concerns” about the change and the job losses.
Hunter said TVA’s goal in the CIO office’s transformation is not to save money, but to make the agency more competitive in how it uses and manages technology.
“We need to hire companies that have expertise for what we need rather than doing it in house,” she said. “We are catching up with the rest of industry, which is the goal versus cost savings.”
TVA is not funded by Congress and receives its budget through the sale of electricity through the Tennessee valley, which includes parts of seven states—Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Virginia.