GSA must meet IT challenges

Reinventing federal personnel and workplace management policies is the next major
challenge for information technology managers, General Services Administration
administrator David J. Barram recently predicted.

"Electronic services are showing us new possibilities, and we have just begun to
take advantage," Barram said. "We now live in a real-time world and our
customers expect us to provide real-time service. It's up to us to stay on top of this
wave of change."

Agency IT investments should reflect new ideas for revamping job duties and creating
more virtual work sites, Barram said last month at an Association For Federal IRM luncheon
in Washington.

Barram said that GSA has been the leading agency in carrying out President Clinton's
order that agencies must establish telecommuting programs as part of the government's
family-friendly work initiative.

GSA has set up a handful of interagency satellite offices throughout the metropolitan
Washington area where federal employees work in buildings closer to their homes and use
PCs to conduct business with colleagues downtown.

Besides easing commuter stress, Barram said, telecommmuting cuts the government's real
estate costs and helps reduce pollution from vehicle emissions.

But the government cannot cash in on these opportunities until agency managers start
focusing more on performance goals than time clocks.

"Telecommuting will work if we hold people accountable for results rather than
time on the job. We have to create an environment where the federal employee is out ahead
of the productivity parade," Barram said.

Barram also flagged weak IT security and privacy programs as obstacles to new online
office programs.

Agency systems should guarantee employees access to the latest and best information,
Barram said. But the government has to find the right mix of system and policy controls to
protect citizen information while enhancing agency services.

"We need to boost security and privacy because even the smallest unintended
failures can mean a disaster," Barram said.

"But we can't allow the desire for control to restrict development. Less control
means we have to be more diligent," he said.

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