VA Office of Information and Technology Year-End Review

Published: January 26, 2017

Information TechnologyVA

This week the VA Office of Information and Technology (OI&T) published a year-end review entitled, “Transformation in Action,” which documents the evolution of VA IT over the last 18 months during CIO LaVerne Council’s tenure with the organization.

The 61 page document profiles the state of OI&T and VA IT at the time Council joined the department, where they wanted to go, and how OI&T got there.

The report states, “In 2015, the Office of Information & Technology was at a crossroads. The rapid expansion of information technology in our modern world created paradigm shifts in how individuals, commercial entities, academia, non-profits, and governments interact, and the pace of change and tectonic shifts in the global economy found VA’s Office of Information and Technology (OI&T) wholly unprepared to meet the changing needs of its business partners and the Veterans we serve.” The report states that most of OI&T’s attention went to the budget and system security, at that time. Additionally, many disconnected, burdensome governance boards and software development decision points made it difficult to innovate and engage business partners. 

OI&T entered FY 2016 with a multitude of evaluations, opinions, studies and a new CIO at the helm.  They refocused not only on why they served, but how. OI&T began to build a foundation on four key principles: transparency, accountability, innovation, and teamwork.  In order to realize customer-service excellence across VA, OI&T has been relying on five MyVA transformation strategies:

  • Improving the veteran experience.
  • Improving the employee experience.
  • Achieving support services excellence.
  • Establishing a culture of continuous performance improvement.
  • Enhancing strategic partnerships.

As part of setting the new course OI&T, they developed a new vision and a new mission with sights on the veteran.

New Vision:  Become a world-class organization that provides a seamless, unified Veteran experience through the delivery of state-of-the-art technology.

New Mission:  Collaborate with our business partners to create the best experience for all Veterans.

The CIO used the studies, data, challenges and opportunities available to establish a new framework, a new IT Enterprise Strategy.  The new strategy was written by Council and validated by a small group of OI&T leaders.

The strategy is based in three simple time phases: Now, Near, and Future. All work within OI&T maps to these timeframes. The strategy also established new goals and functions.

To ensure that OI&T has the long-term support to make the transformation permanent, they have increased leadership positions by 35%. OI&T has added 13 new positions to their organization and now has a total of 37 Senior Executive Service (SES) or Senior Leader (SL) positions. These executives were recruited from both inside the federal government and the private sector, bring many years of experience and critical insights to their positions.

The report states, “From redesigning our IT development approach, to stabilizing and streamlining our core processes and platforms, to establishing clearer oversight, to taking an ever-more-strategic approach to planning for what comes next—we adjusted, we transformed, and we delivered.”

With new strategic frameworks, principles, goals and functions in place, OI&T has accomplished the following:

  • Redesigning OI&T toward IT service management
  • Establishing an Enterprise Program management Office (EPMO)
  • Addressing quality, privacy, and risk
  • Transforming OI&T risk management
  • Instituting Activity-Based Costing
  • Building a way for customers to browse and select from VA services
  • Making it easier to get service
  • Bringing cloud to VA
  • Optimizing IT operations in the field
  • Establishing the Enterprise Cybersecurity Team
  • Implementing PIV Cards
  • Implementing whitelisting technology
  • Using Nessus Enterprise Web Tool (NEWT) to continuously identify and remediate security deficien­cies
  • Employing enterprise patching
  • Establishing a configuration management database (CMDB)
  • Implementing Splunk to collect, manage, protect, and monitor the entire VA cybersecurity posture.
  • Setting up account management
  • Focusing on strategic sourcing
  • Developing a Digital Health Platform (DHP)
  • Facilitating Interoperability
  • Transforming Employee Engagement & Development

In the introduction of the report, Council states, “This transformation has touched every corner of the enterprise, enhanced every aspect of our work, and shifted the very foundation of how OI&T does business.”  She goes on to say that even though the organization has achieved major accomplishments and her service is complete, OI&T is looking to the future. They plan to “relentlessly pursue excellence…on behalf of those who deserve it most.”