Not surprisingly Vivek Kundra, US Federal CIO, has been named CIO of the Year by Information Week.
I met him for the first time a bit more than a year ago, when he was CTO in DC and launched the first application contest (appsfordemocracy) as part of his early move toward open government. He has been the US federal CIO for less than a year and he has certainly shaken some of the consolidated habits and traditions. Transparency in project reporting, public data and procurement have been some of his most visible accomplishments. But what I find remarkable is the attention he commands among senior IT leaders throughout the US. Of course not all of them love him and his “prove-me-wrong” style that has brought the mantra of beta versions to the fore in the traditionally risk-averse public sector. But they do listen, and listen carefully.
Softly spoken, media savvy and exceptionally smart in relating to people especially outside government, he will be facing the same challenges as his boss. President Obama has set the expectation bar very high, and the American people as well as the rest of the world will carefully scrutinize how he delivers on a very ambitious agenda. Vivek has created expectations for change inside and outside government.
The open data and the IT spending oversight initiatives are likely to unfold rather successfully: this does not mean they will necessarily deliver value across the board, but I can’t see why they should be derailed and by what.
The situation is different for his cloud computing agenda. The delays in adding infrastructure-as-a-service offerings to the GSA cloud storefront apps.gov are an early symptom of how bendy the road can be after the first software-as-a-service low hanging fruits. Also how this relates to the wider data consolidation agenda, the change management and joint governance challenges, the maneuvers of IT vendors (both incumbent and rising stars), the desire and appetite for control that some federal agencies will keep showing: all these and more will require constant effort and determination by Vivek and his colleagues at OMB and GSA for his strategy to succeed.
The key challenge for 2010 will be for him to maintain the right balance between a compelling, somewhat controversial vision, and a strong hold on execution and oversight.
I wish him well to get this award again next year.
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