Federal CIO Suzette Kent emphasized in an address today to tech-sector officials the importance of scaling, sustaining, and “industrializing” technology advancements notched by the Federal government including those featured in the President’s Management Agenda (PMA) issued one year ago.

Speaking at GDIT Emerge in Washington, Kent recalled several aims of the PMA including updating Federal policy to promote IT modernization generally, but specifically employing commercial technologies in that effort, reducing regulatory burdens, and easing the path for the Federal workforce to take on higher-value tasks.

“Innovation is not always easy,” she observed, but when it happens on a smaller scale it needs to be sustained and industrialized so that the value of innovation is lasting.  “We have opportunities to make leaps and bounds” in Federal IT innovation, but “the heavy lifting is sustaining that spark,” she said.

Promoting innovation necessarily involves change, and that road is not always an easy one, she said.

“You are asking people to do things differently, and it sometimes feels like a full-contact sport,” she said.  But “the joy” of the process, she said, comes from turning complicated processes into “a couple of clicks . . . That’s what fun looks like.”

When innovation is accomplished at scale, and improved processes are industrialized, “there is a good greater than the whole,” Kent said.

On the specific policy front, Kent discussed the Federal government’s nascent program to reskill non-IT professionals in cybersecurity.  She said that a second cohort in that program was being announced today, and added, “we have more that are following.”

On the government-wide push to cloud service adoption, she said that most agencies have moved to cloud-based email services, and that her office is working with the “final agencies” in that effort.  The strategy to promote an email-first approach for agency cloud adoption marks a “start” for many in what is intended to be a longer-term journey to cloud-based services. “Now that we have the first piece, what is the second,” she said.

In addition to moving to cloud-based email systems, Kent said that about 30 percent of Federal agencies had accomplished some form of application rationalization, and said it was “now time to do more.”

In the automation realm, Kent said that approximately 35 agencies were undertaking use of robotic process automation (RPA) technologies as an early step in the path to more fully embracing advanced technologies.  But she called that RPA usage by agencies a “teeny, tiny drop in the bucket.”

“There’s lots more room for automation” technologies, she said, adding, “those are the muscles we have to build across agencies.”

“Just get started,” she advised agencies in their moves to advanced technologies. “It may be something small, but just get started.”

Kent also previewed a couple of near-term events on her office’s calendar including a high-performance computing forum that will include people from the Department of Energy’s national laboratories. The May 15 event is for Federal personnel only.

The other event is a Federal technology day event set for May 16, focused on advanced technologies including artificial intelligence and robotic process automation and including a series of live demonstrations.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.