Commercial Tools Institutionalizing Business

Donna Seymour, Chief Information Officer, Office of Personnel Management
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Donna Seymour, Chief Information Officer, Office of Personnel Management

In December 2013, I received a phone call offering me the position of CIO at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM). It was a dream come true—a CIO position at an agency with a mission that literally spans the entire Federal government. I began with OPM on day fifty four of a hundred-day goal to deliver a strategic Information Technology (IT) plan to Director Katherine Archuleta. Working with a team of business and IT professionals from throughout the agency, we released, in February (and on time), a Strategic Information Technology (IT) Plan that ensures our IT goals and technology resources align optimally with the agency’s strategic plan, specifically to “manage information technology systems efficiently and effectively in support of OPM’s mission.”

And then the fun began. Ultimately, the Federal government will adopt and implement a suite of modern, integrated Human Resources (HR) IT standards and capabilities that will span the HR lifecycle (strategy to separation) found in the Human Resources Line of Business. This framework is critical to driving a federal-wide HR capability that breaks down silos and drives information exchange based on a set of standards.

“Data exchange and use will only be possible through clear standards for OPM and partners that are both robust and flexible”

For example, in the strategy phase, an agency assesses its staffing needs and develops position descriptions. In the acquire phase, job announcements are posted on USAJOBS, which must integrate seamlessly with USA Staffing and other talent acquisition systems that agencies use to recruit, assess, certify, and onboard qualified candidates. Throughout an employee’s tenure (the sustain phase) and afterwards (the separation phase), the data submitted in the acquire phase will be available and usable for various HR functions, including skills tracking and benefits. All of this data exchange and use will only be possible through clear standards for OPM and our partners that are both robust and flexible.

In our Strategic IT Plan, we identify some successful practices and initiatives that we have organized into three categories: enabling, enterprise and business initiatives. The enabling initiatives will ensure we adopt repeatable processes for all our IT programs.

• IT leadership: IT leadership is a responsibility at every level within the organization, not just a CIO responsibility—and the CIO must have the necessary authority and be held accountable.

• IT Governance: IT governance must be inclusive and transparent, from planning to decisions to implementation and operations—and the CIO has to proactively drive decisions and oversight.

• Enterprise Architecture (EA): EA is a way for us to organize and describe where we are, where we want to go, and how we will get there—and the CIO has to partner with business to continuously shape this story board.

• Agile IT: Agile principles help us deliver capability sooner and in better partnership with our business sponsors throughout the development process—and the CIO has to ensure staff and business partners are ready to adopt these new principles.

• Data Analytics: We have a wealth of data to drive decisions and policies, and we must make it available for these purposes—and the CIO should be proactive in organizing and educating people about what is available and how it can be exposed.

• Information Security: Protecting sensitive data is paramount, especially given the wealth of data that we have—and the CIO must weave security into every facet of managing IT.

Enterprise initiatives form the core of our IT modernization efforts and enable us to take advantage of economies of scale across the enterprise by decreasing redundancies. We culled these from the business initiatives and the significant user input we received during our strategic planning process. In particular, we will collaborate across OPM on the six enterprise initiatives:

• Platform Consolidation: We need to better engineer our business solutions so we can deliver updates faster with less work, which better supports the mission and reduces costs.

• Collaboration Tools: We need better ways to share information internally and with our customers so our employees and customers feel engaged.

• Business Process Management and Case Management Tools: We need to take advantage of commercial tools that provide broad capabilities and help us document and institutionalize our business.

• Data Management and Warehousing: We need better ways to associate our data and make it accessible so we create an even more powerful set of data to support policy and decisions.

• Electronic Recordkeeping: We need to ensure we are purging records when we can to reduce our storage costs and remain compliant with record retention rules.

• Financial Management: We need to increase the financial detail with which we deliver IT solutions so we can identify areas for efficiencies. Although the twelve initiatives above don’t directly deliver the mission of the agency, through their implementation we will greatly improve the effectiveness and efficiency with which we deliver mission critical systems and business solutions. These initiatives will enable us to plan and deliver modern IT business solutions that support the entire Federal HR community and all its customers. Some of these business solutions include USAJOBS (used to advertise most federal job opportunities), USA Staffing (used to process most federal hiring actions), USA Performance (a new performance management system being piloted for senior executives), and USA Hire (a system that provides assessments of candidates for federal positions), and many others.

Our 2014 Open Government Flagship, Enterprise Information Management, will serve as a foundation for the success of our Strategic IT Plan. Through this Flagship, we will manage our information holistically (including electronic and analog, structured and unstructured information) and strategically throughout the HR lifecycle. We will do this at the enterprise level and with a strong focus on security and privacy. In a nutshell, we envision our Flagship will lead to an end state in which (1) we fully meet all of our policy and legal obligations as they evolve, and (2) our information is well organized, thereby decreasing costly duplication; properly backed up and safeguarded; easily searchable and retrievable by those with proper permission to access the information; of consistently high quality; and highly reusable for analytics and decision making.

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