CIOpedia remains go-to source for CIO trade secrets
- By William Jackson
- Nov 03, 2014
When CIOpedia was launched by the Federal CIO Council last year, it was designed to satisfy a particular need of CIOs: a go-to site for best practices in managing the complex federal IT environment.
Now a part of the Federal CIO Council’s Knowledge Portal, the wiki-style reference site is helping fill a need for institutional knowledge in the federal IT community, where rapid changes in technology and high turnover make it difficult for agency IT managers to keep current with requirements and practices in managing IT.
Prior to its launch, there was no governmentwide resource for best practices, which led to wasted time and duplicated efforts as managers struggled to get and stay up to speed. It also contributed to the short “work span” for the average CIO. “They only last about three years,” said Charles Santangelo, co-chair of the CIO Council’s Shared Services Task Force.
“They often rely on time-consuming research and informal networking to understand their jobs and the role of IT in their agencies’ missions. By the time they had gained an understanding of these challenges they often were ready to move on, and the process would start again with a new CIO.
“This was an opportunity to address that,” said Santangelo, who was project manager of the CIOpedia project.
“We needed a place where people can go if they have a question about IT and can look up a document and find somebody they can ask about it,” said Adam Hughes of the General Services Administration, a senior advisor with the CIO Council.
“People were hungry for this type of information,” said Santangelo. “There is a need for information that could be accessed quickly, he said. “You can’t learn everything by going to conferences and talking to people. Sometimes you’ve got only an hour.” Since its launch, CIOpedia has amassed crowdsourced information in 10 primary subject areas that have been vetted by government subject matter experts. In its first year the site has received more than 12,000 visits from 2,200 unique visitors – not huge numbers by commercial website standards, but developers say the traffic represent a “great thirst” basic information on best practices in government IT.
Despite the apparent need for such a source, getting it up and running was not a simple process. “Getting over the hurdle from wanting to get something done to doing it in government requires a large amount of work,” Hughes said. The permissions required to get anything done is “staggering,” he said.
The portal and the CIOpedia are housed on OMB’s MAX, a government-only site that requires a government e-mail address to access, so the information is restricted to the federal IT community and not available to the general public.
“Some of this is sensitive stuff that you only want to share in government,” Hughes said. There are legitimate reasons for restricting access to some of the information, but beyond that, many agencies are generally leery about publishing information, even unclassified and not sensitive. “It’s a rare agency that proactively wants to share something,” he said. Housing the contents on the MAX site avoids the issue of public release of information.
The CIOpedia was developed using this collaborative model, with federal subject matter experts guiding the process in each of 10 content areas:
- IT strategic planning and budgeting
- Enterprise architecture
- IT investment management
- It program management, operations, acquisition and performance
- Information security and cybersecurity
- IT workforce and planning
- Records management
- Information collection, dissemination and disclosure
- Statistical policy and coordination
There also are two appendices, e-government initiatives and law and policy.
The CIOpedia was rolled out gradually. Over the course of the year it was under development, two or three sections were released at a time for peer review and editing. The edits were evaluated and the approved version was republished to the broader community. This wiki process produced a consensus on best IT practices.
“Sometimes there is disagreement about what a best practice is and what the rules are,” said Santangelo. A final decision was made by a subject matter expert on the topic team before the approved version was published.
As the CIOpedia was being developed, the CIO Council also saw the need for a portal containing a broader range of information for the IT community. This became the council’s Knowledge Portal, of which the CIOpedia now is a subset. The Knowledge Portal is a repository for documents and information that agencies share with colleagues. Where the CIOpedia is a reference tool for “what to do,” the portal is a searchable database of “how to” information.
“We didn’t want the portal to just be a place to post documents,” Hughes said. “We wanted lessons and experiences to go along with it. For all documents we have contact information so you can take the next step.”
To date there are about 120 entries in the Knowledge Portal. Some of them contain multiple documents, but it still is not a huge collection. The CIO Council began actively soliciting content from agencies in late 2013, and the process still is in its early stages. Eventually they hope to be able to add 10 to 20 documents a month to the portal.
Launching the Knowledge Portal and CIOpedia is not the end of the process. It has to be kept up-to-date after the contents are published, Santangelo said. “You need resources to keep the website current,” he said. “If you have old data, it’s useless data. You have to keep it fresh. That’s the big challenge, to keep it fresh and current.”
William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.