Parting words: a quick review

Mark Forman's two-year stint as the de facto governmentwide CIO was his third turn in a federal government job.

Before working at the Office of Management and Budget, Forman was vice president of electronic business at Unisys Corp. and directed IBM Corp.'s e-government consulting practice. But he also previously worked for the General Accounting Office and was a senior professional staff member on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, where he helped draft the Clinger-Cohen Act and other procurement reform legislation.

Last week, as Forman was finishing up his final days at OMB, he answered a few farewell questions from GCN staff writer Jason Miller.

GCN: What characteristics would you look for in your replacement?

FORMAN: People come with their own sets of skills and abilities, and if you look at high-quality CIOs you see a few common themes. They are very good at understanding the business of an organization and how technology can improve how the organization works. They understand operations and technology, and how technology can improve the quality of their operations. In our environment, the person must understand government, its processes and missions.

GCN: What do you consider your biggest accomplishments while at OMB?

FORMAN: There were a number of accomplishments that I'm proud of.
The advancement in the use of business cases. I'm seeing in industry and government that people are more specific about what they expect to get out of IT investments, and they realize they need to go through a process change to get results.

The second major accomplishment is in the area of cybersecurity. I know we have a lot to do. But before we started work on it, no one was measuring agency IT security, or people were blowing it off as a paperwork exercise. Now, we know we have a good baseline, and we have a set of steps and action plans that people have to follow through on to get to the level of security we know we need.

I'm also most proud of how we restructured FirstGov from 1,000 clicks to service to three clicks to service; getting the IRS' Free File done at minimum cost and exceeding our target by more than 10 percent of who would use it; getting the Online Rule-making Web site up.

GCN: What would you have done differently?

FORMAN: We learned a lot from doing the cross-agency initiatives. I wish we had moved faster on the Federal Enterprise Architecture reference models and tools to analyze agency business cases.

In the e-government initiatives, we learned we needed to get agency executives on board and committed to a set of results before we could get good business cases finished. We lost about four months to five months in getting a decent business case and program plan in place.

GCN: Who gave you the support to be successful in changing the way the government manages IT?

FORMAN: There is no question this focus came from President Bush. The fact that the president understands management was important. There were several instances where people said they would take an issue to the president, and I had no qualms about saying go ahead because I knew he understood the importance of technology and of teamwork'both of which end with results.

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