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In search of the US government's inner 'startup:' federal CIO

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The new US CIO wants the federal behemoth to act less like a behemoth and more like a startup. Can it be done?

The newly installed chief information officer of the US federal government wants the federal behemoth to act less like a behemoth and more like a startup.

Toward a more granular gov: Steve VanRoekel, US CIO

Can it be done?  There aren't many startups operating with $80 billion a year it IT expenditures and enough legacy hardware to cover the entire state of New Jersey. But for Steven VanRoekel, the future is here, and it's social, digital, and virtual.

Appropriately, he delivered his first talk as CIO in Silicon Valley, at the Xerox PARC center -- where numerous innovations such as PC technology were hatched.

VanRoekel says the US has become "Facebook Nation," a fitting term for a society that functions via digital connectivity and initiatives. At his PARC speech, he outlined his vision for the federal government following suit:

"Going forward, we need to embrace modular development, build on open standards, and run our projects in lean startup mode. We also need to work with Congress to change our approach to funding technology to better support these principles. Given the rapid pace of change in technology, it’s not enough to just build technology solutions that meet our needs today. We need to design for the future, not for the status quo."

For giving an organization as massive as the federal government the agility and nimbleness of a startup, VanRoekel wants to break government data and applications into small, digestable chunks, Sarah Lai Stirland of TPMIdeaLab reports:

"VanRoekel said that he wants to overhaul the federal bureaucracy to become more agile in an age of services delivered via mobile apps, and where information is atomized so that it can be mashed up by anyone to provide deeper insights. He also wants to break down massive multi-year information technology projects into smaller, more modular projects in the hopes of saving the government from getting mired in multi-million dollar failures."

Any venture capitalists interested in investing in this budding Washington, DC-based startup?

Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure