First, First, First…



Written by Tod Tompkins

In late October, (relatively) new Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel made his first major public appearance to debut his “Future First” initiative. Expanding on former Federal CIO Vivek Kundra’s “Cloud First” policy, “Future First” will “jumpstart the government’s adoption of new technologies and approaches.” The ultimate goals of this initiative – which should unquestionably be the government’s focus – are to yield a higher return on IT investments, increase productivity and improve the way the government interacts with citizens. Mr. VanRoekel envisioned the possibility of “XML First,” “Web Services First,” and “Virtualize First.” First, first, first… (The written remarks from this speech can be found here.)

He also discussed the idea of a “Shared First” program aimed at eliminating waste and duplication to shift to “commodity IT, leverage technology, procurement and best practices across the whole of government, and build on existing investments rather than re-inventing the wheel.” Building on existing investments rather than re-inventing the wheel – this is the heart of the idea and is really what should be the focal point, especially given the immediate requirements for budget cuts.

What better way to leverage existing investments than to migrate the legacy systems and applications that have been powering government for years – often decades – to newer platforms, rather than scrapping them and starting from scratch. As an example (and I know I am getting down in the weeds) COBOL – a programming language that has been around since the Founding Fathers (I jest) – currently processes 70% of the world’s data and the average American interacts with a COBOL program 13 times per day (more facts can be found here). A simple COBOL migration to a newer platform can increase operational efficiency and save millions of dollars in the process. A Defense Department agency recently reduced its yearly mainframe costs from $12 million to $3 million per year.

I applaud Mr. VanRoekel for his vision and focus on making the government more efficient and effective. I support his approach and wish him the best of luck in his “Future First” push. I would, however, like to propose another “first” for consideration – “Cost Savings First.” What other “firsts” should the government consider pursuing? Please provide your feedback below or on our Facebook and Twitter sites.

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