CIO Council must look to the future
- By Jason Miller
- Mar 30, 2004
Dan Matthews, DOT's systems driver
Henrik G. de Gyor
Dan Matthews considers his role as vice chairman of the CIO Council similar to his job as the Transportation Department's CIO'on a larger scale. Matthews, who took over the council position in November, said Transportation has 10 agencies, each with its own budget, mission and constituency. His challenge is to bring these often disparate IT operations under the department's umbrella.
'There are more widespread issues with the CIO Council, and the goal is to find items we all have in common,' he said.
Matthews is a newcomer to the federal IT community, having joined DOT last March. But he is not new to the government marketplace. He spent 22 years with Lockheed Martin Corp.
Before the Transportation post, Matthews was a senior vice president at Savantage Financial Services Inc. of Rockville, Md., where he was responsible for modernizing financial systems for several agencies. He began his career in the Air Force, working on logistics and computers.
Matthews' educational credentials received public scrutiny recently when GCN reported that he has a bachelor's degree from Kent College, an unaccredited institution in Louisiana. He said he had been led to believe the school was accredited by a board that later was revealed to be bogus.
GCN staff writer Jason Miller interviewed Matthews at his DOT office in Washington. GCN: Now that you are a few months into your post as vice chairman of the CIO Council, what are your impressions?
MATTHEWS: There is important work to do.
At this point in time, the CIO Council is concentrating on implementing the 25 Quicksilver initiatives, and that is incredibly important. I'm looking forward to working with all CIOs to get as much Quicksilver implementation done as quickly as possible.
There will always be an ebb and flow of what the CIO Council will do. Prior to Quicksilver, things were really policy-related and interaction-related. How do the CIOs come together and work with the Office of Management and Budget?
Quicksilver came out of that and certainly the President's Management Agenda contributed to a new mission or mandate for the organization. We are making progress on the Quicksilver initiatives.
Enterprise architecture is an issue that is in front of us collectively. All of the agencies have now done their blueprints and turned them in to OMB. Certainly, there are some constructs in there that can be leveraged across federal agencies, and we will see how those play up.GCN: The role of the council has changed over the past few years. How do you see the vice chairman fitting in?
MATTHEWS: I think the members of the CIO Council look for a person who is a moderate, who will effect leadership when the sense is we are mired. I think they look for somebody to be the spokesperson to the press or internally to get consensus. The CIOs also look for that person to be a strong voice with OMB on what CIOs consider can and cannot be done.GCN: Where do you see yourself?
MATTHEWS: I will do everything in my power to stay in the middle. But after 30 years in this business, I can go to either end.
I do think that 90 percent of my time is best spent in the middle, being a cheerleader or leader. I do know a dictatorial style does not work. And total permissiveness, at the other end, is not good for the body either. So being in the middle is what is best.GCN: How does your leadership style differ from Karen Evans and James Flyzik, who held the council post previously?
MATTHEWS: I can't compare myself to either of them. If you put all three of us together, there would be a Venn diagram that says this is what we have in common and this is where two of us are more similar than the other one and then there would be outlying areas.
Jim [former CIO of the Treasury Department and now partner in Guerra, Kiviat, Flyzik & Associates of Potomac, Md.] was a terrific and flamboyant spokesman for what the group was doing and also a consensus builder.
Karen [the council's chairwoman and OMB director of e-government and IT] is probably a stronger consensus builder; that led to faster progress.
Make no mistake about it: They both served the right role at the right time. I can only hope my service will be half as effective as either of theirs was, individually or collectively.GCN: How has your experience at the Transportation Department and in industry prepared you for the council work?
MATTHEWS: Transportation is a microcosm of the CIO Council at large. In the council, the CIOs come from across government. At DOT, there are 10 operating agencies, and they all have a different constituency that they are actively working for.
The departmental CIO's job is much like that of the CIO Council's vice chairman, not always to be the hammer, not always to be the glove, but almost always to be in the middle. This is a bigger community, but there are the same overall issues.
Industry gave me expertise with government agencies across the board. During my time working with the Social Security Administration, when it was a part of the Health and Human Services Department, I got a chance to see how agencies worked within a department.
Having worked with the Defense Department, I'm familiar with how agencies within a department must interact to make something happen.GCN: Do you see funding for e-government projects as a major issue for the CIO Council?
MATTHEWS: In my opinion, there was an expectation that Congress was going to budget money for this. It did not happen, but Congress was supportive of the initiatives. So in essence, we found a way to do that.
To me, what is interesting is that CIOs and OMB believe that the initiatives are righteous enough to find a way to work within the system right now and find a way to implement them.
CIOs can explain the reasons globally why we need the money for these projects. But we have to talk to the agency heads too.
We should implement Quicksilver and demonstrate its value to the federal government, and then I think we should continue to seek funding for these initiatives. But we should not be deterred by not getting funding because we know the projects are the right thing to do.GCN: What other issues are on the agenda?
MATTHEWS: Working with other government leadership councils is the third thing we need to do. We need to strengthen our ties to those councils.
I would not be surprised in the not-too-distant future if Linda Springer, chairwoman of the Chief Financial Officers Council [and OMB controller], was invited to speak to the CIO Council about how we need to come together and work more closely for a host of reasons, including the funding of Quicksilver initiatives.
Certainly, we've come to know and appreciate one another because of such issues. It would be nice for us to get together and figure out where we are going collectively.
The CFOs need not convert themselves into IT specialists nor should the IT folks convert themselves into financial analysts, but both groups should get together and understand how to implement systems and then support one another for the betterment of government.GCN: What are the council's biggest challenges?
MATTHEWS: Continuing the enthusiasm for the Quicksilver initiatives and other similar projects is one challenge.
The group has been enthusiastic about the Quicksilver initiatives. It has been vocal and has participated well, and as I mentioned, we found ways to make it work. Keeping that level of enthusiasm will be a challenge.
Getting CIOs to look downstream to find the next issue will be a challenge. The Quicksilver model is well defined. Fee-for-service, transaction-based initiatives make a lot of sense. But what's next?
We all have submitted enterprise architectures, and now we have to take a look at them and maybe we can find a way to do Web delivery of services to citizens in a more global, cost-effective method.