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3 ways to inspire FITARA buy-in

For federal agencies, IT modernization has traditionally meant having to fight for limited funding while navigating a cumbersome acquisition process.The passage of the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) in 2014 offered agencies a new opportunity. Under FITARA, Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are empowered to lead, innovate and modernize to streamline IT acquisition. Dell recently partnered with the Government Business Council (GBC) to benchmark the progress so far.

FITARA provides a detailed road map for federal agencies, but even the most detailed checklist cannot account for a key part of the equation: people. According to a recent Dell and Government Business Council our survey, the culture of an organization plays an equally important role in FITARA’s implementation. And if employees aren’t included in the modernization process, it can have a profoundly negative effect on its success.

Of the survey participants, nearly 30 percent of respondents were skeptical about the impact FITARA could have on federal acquisition, and seven percent said they believed it may actually exacerbate current problems. More than 60 percent of respondents, 83 percent of whom are in executive leadership roles, had not opinion on FITARA at all.

The CIO/innovator needs a strong team and employee buy-in to drive innovation from the top down. So how do organizations inspire their people to support and enable the process? Here are a few places to start:

1. Adopt a future ready mindset.

You may not be able to predict the future, but you can prepare for whatever comes your way.  A future-ready organization will spend less on maintaining legacy systems; focus more on agile, responsive IT; and support a productive, mobile workforce.  FITARA gives CIOs the runway they need to build a modernization plan, commit the necessary funds and then execute the plan. If they can imbue their employees with a future ready mindset, those employees become advocates for their organization and contribute directly to its success.

2. Enhance communication and employee involvement.

A knowledgeable workforce starts at the top. Agencies should launch an internal marketing effort to educate employees on FITARA, explain how IT reform will positively impact employees' daily jobs, and offer ideas for employee involvement. Requesting feedback from your workforce is equally important. The more invested in the outcome employees feel, the more willing they are to look for ways to support and participate in the program.  Likewise, CIOs gain a much greater insight into the types of IT modernization solutions best-suited for their organization if they truly understand the needs of the people that keep it running.

3. Reinforce that FITARA is not an overnight fix.

The lack  of confidence in FITARA, a sentiment reflected in our survey, may be due to the failing scorecards issued last November. However, every organization has to start somewhere - a "D" or "F" should be viewed as a tool for improvement. These scorecards are giving agencies the feedback necessary to develop an effective strategy for change.

Obtaining employee buy-in is critical to FITARA's success. The CIO needs the force of the entire agency to drive success; IT modernization requires a cultural change as much as a technological one. The next set of scorecards will reveal which organizations have made the commitment to their people and which ones still have work to do before they are fully future ready.

Steve Harris is vice president and general manager of Dell Federal. 

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