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U.S. CIO shares vision for federal agency IT operations

Kenneth Corbin | May 17, 2013
Steven VanRoekel sees the federal-agency CIO as a pivotal figure, but not a micromanager. At FOSE, the nation's tech chief outlines how federal CIOs can lay the groundwork for a more fluid, productive IT apparatus.

But VanRoekel describes a workplace culture in the federal government that might best be described as risk-averse. He recalls that his team at Microsoft handed out a monthly risk reward to employees "who stuck their neck out and tried something," even though the majority of those awards were given in recognition of endeavors that failed.

"But we wanted to incentivize risk, to tell people it's OK to take risks," VanRoekel says. "The way you manage this if you're a C-level executive or managing an organization is lower the risk surface  make the failure not so painful that you can get out of it."

At the federal government, VanRoekel argues, agency CIOs (and, more importantly, mission objectives and citizens) would be better served by employees who approach the IT projects they design and scope with a more ambitious vision.

"We've got a lot of project managers in government who can hit the short deliverable, who can do the 90-day, let's get something done and let's focus on that from an objective standpoint," he says. "We don't have a lot of [project] managers who can hit the five-years-out thing, and hit it with a level of precision that's going to be on time, on budget or under budget."


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