Efficiency, Culture and Leadership in IT

May 10, 2012
By Rita Boland

Information technology (IT) efficiencies are a critical piece of the way forward for the military, along with security and effectiveness. So said Maj. Gen. Mark Bowman, USA, director of command, control, communications and computers/chief information officer (CIO), during a panel discussion at the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) Mission Partner Conference. He further stated that effectiveness in particular is "absolutely critical to us."   Across the military and industry, virtualization, thin client and cloud are helping to drive efficiencies while providing necessary security and enabling effectiveness. A defense pilot program will test running thin client on the nonsecure Internet protocol routing network. Also common across defense and the private sector is the challenge of overcoming cultural barriers. As usual during a military technology conference, discussion turned to policy as the major inhibitor to deploying new IT concepts. But Michael Krieger, the deputy CIO/G-6 of the U.S. Army, said that people use policy as an excuse for not changing, but he does not view it as an issue. "I'm a minimalist on policy," he stated. He believes that in general, people do not require much official guidance. "I don't think policy is a problem...This is just hard work." Jeff Barr, senior web services evangelist at Amazon Web Services, said that senior leadership need to push and promote IT efficiencies and other advancements. They should view changes as opportunities not threats to positions. Another industry panelist, Cora Carmody, CIO, Jacobs Engineering, said that sometimes people regard efficiency as a code word for reductions in personnel, resulting in fear and resistance. She also pointed out that all change represents a type of loss in technology and policy. However, her organization has made progress with new offerings, virtualizing widely across the company. Jacobs has realized millions in savings with the change. The U.S. Navy is looking to consolidate, reducing systems and apps by 50 percent by fiscal year 2015. Janice Haith, from the Navy's CIO office, said that her service believes 75 to 80 percent of Navy personnel on shore can migrate to thin client. She also shared about the challenge of convincing sailors to think about the enterprise and not simply about applications they feel they need. Despite technical and policy challenges, leaders are realizing the need for technology alterations in the military and among its various partners. Gen. Bowman said that in a shift from 20 years ago, today's high-level defense officials "are getting the value of IT." And Krieger explained that good leadership is imperative and fortunately, "I'm proud to say as a taxpayer you have it."  

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