Hey, it's just business: As e-gov projects evolve, some agencies shift control from CIOs' offices

Ron Miller says his goal is to make e-government a normal part of the business process at the Small Business Administration.

Laurie DeWitt

As agencies recognize the importance of e-government and the obstacles to its success, some are trying a different approach.

The Transportation Security Administration and Small Business Administration have established e-government offices that are not managed by the agency's CIO. Instead, officials who understand programmatic policy first and technology second are in charge of transforming electronic transactions.

TSA e-government director Sara Hebert answers to Lana Tannozzini, the director of strategic management and analysis.

And recently, SBA established its e-government office, headed by former Federal Emergency Management Agency CIO Ron Miller, under agency administrator Hector Barreto rather than the CIO.

TSA and SBA's moves represent a trend in government, according to agency officials and industry experts.

'E-government is more than just the electronic component, it is the way to do business on a day-to-day basis,' said Miller, who is SBA's senior adviser to the administrator for e-government. 'For it to take hold, it has to be at a level where the administrator has direct oversight and responsibility.'

When the Office of Management and Budget kicked off the Quicksilver e-government effort two years ago, many agencies placed their e-government offices under the CIO. This made e-government a technology problem. But as OMB and agencies came to understand that changing cultural and business processes is as critical to e-government as is technology, the offices are starting to take a different shape.

'When agencies move beyond creating a Web interface for services, and start redesigning back-office processes, there are business people that have to be involved,' said David McClure, vice president for e-government at the Council for Excellence in Government, a Washington nonprofit group. 'We are seeing an evolution in many federal agencies. It is not just a technical question, but it is about redesigning processes that underlie program delivery areas.'

McClure said CIOs should share responsibility for agencies' IT strategy with program heads.

Carl DeMaio, the president of the Performance Institute in Arlington, Va., said e-government is more dependent on having a good business manager than a good technical manager. He said the greater focus on the business enterprise is a positive step for government.

'We still have CIOs too focused on project metrics, like how many are done and what standards are met rather than how it contributes to the agency mission,' DeMaio said.

This trend also highlights the maturation of e-government within agencies, said Jeff Bollettino, vice president for Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. of McLean, Va.

Beyond technology

'Agencies are trying to find a person who is adept at driving organizational change and working on relationships that cross boundaries,' Bollettino said. 'The person must understand technology and manage it successfully.'

SBA officials believe they found that person in Miller.

Miller said his goal is to make e-government a normal part of the business process so there is no need for his office.

'If we can demonstrate the value of being able to serve customers through e-government, it will make for better implementation agencywide,' he said. 'I told the program people when I took the job that I will be getting into their business.'

One of the first areas Miller tackled was to redesign the agency's Web site to be more customer focused. The new site debuted in June.

'We are now going behind the Web site and looking at the products, services and processes the site points to,' Miller said. 'We dubbed it e-transformation. It will change the way we deliver services to our customers.'

Part of that e-transformation effort is to follow the governmentwide lead of the Business Compliance One-Stop Quicksilver project, which SBA also manages, Miller said. He wants to re-engineer SBA's forms and the flow of information between different parts of the agency.

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