Creating a culture of innovation will be a primary driver for agencies, as the federal budget request for fiscal 2015 is focused on doing more with less. Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel spoke earlier this month at the Igniting Innovation Forum, sponsored by ACT-IAC’s Institute for Innovation, and stressed that, while IT budgets have remained flat over the past few years, agencies have to make a shift in culture to realize that it doesn’t require a big budget to make a big impact.
The President’s budget is slated for release on March 4th and, while VanRoekel wouldn’t provide actual figures or specifics, he noted that IT spending is roughly $80 billion of the federal budget.
With a relatively small portion of the overall budget, VanRoekel believes that “we are moving a sector of the economy through our actions.” However, if agencies want to continue to make an impact through their IT investments, they must address the atrophy that traditionally plagues the system and make a culture change for greater flexibility.
VanRoekel advises agencies to rethink the traditional approach. Doing more with less doesn’t mean that agencies are at a standstill. Many agencies believe that big ideas require big RFPs, big vendors, and big solutions— and “that’s not sustainable,” according to VanRoekel. Agencies need to shift their thinking, simplify, and consider what can be done with fewer budget dollars. In many cases, it requires the agency pull in industry partners and develop a public-private partnership that doesn’t exclude staff, but incorporates them into the process.
During the event, 30 innovative projects were highlighted. Environmental Protection Agency was recognized for having demonstrated the most significant successes in embracing innovation. In partnership with INDUS Corporation, the EPA created How’s My Waterway, a responsive web design-based application that allows users to find information on the quality and pollution conditions of their local waters using a smart phone, tablet, or desktop computer.
The projects represented at the forum demonstrated that certain agencies are currently embracing innovation. VanRoekel praised the teams for showing that it is possible to move innovation forward even during challenging times, and he encouraged other agencies to learn from peers, share best practices, and move forward with embracing innovative IT solutions.