Transforming VA IT

Published: October 21, 2015


VA’s new CIO, LaVerne Council, is on a mission to reform and revitalize the department’s approach to information technology by implementing a framework for success. Council delivered her vision and mission for VA IT during her first public address, at a GITEC education symposium in DC last week.

The current VA IT domain consists of 8,000 employees; 455,000 desktops; 25,000 servers; and 750,000 network devices. The department must use IT to enable a diversity of services including health care service delivery, benefits administration, and cemetery management.  And the department faces pressures in the following areas:  

  • Changing veteran demographics 
  • Shifting business partner needs 
  • Rising public expectations 
  • Growing cyber threats 
  • Next generation IT delivery models 
  • Consumerization of IT 
  • Internet of Things

VA’s new IT vision, according to Council, is to become a world-class organization that provides a seamless unified veteran experience through state-of-the-art technology.  VA’s new IT mission is to collaborate with business partners to create the best experience for all veterans.

Council plans to achieve the new vision and mission via a framework of transparency, accountability, innovation and teamwork. The new agile framework aims to stabilize core processes and platforms, eliminate material weaknesses and institutionalize new capabilities to drive improved outcomes. Along with the framework, Council established new project and program timeframes:  Now (within 6 months), Near (6-18 months), and Future (18-36 months).

Council has also developed the following critical factors for success:  

  • Quick wins  
  • Rigorous performance metrics 
  • Institutionalize a “Buy First” strategy 
  • Leadership and skills training 
  • Cross-VA collaboration 
  • Employee engagement and accountability

According to Council, this new IT framework can be used to enable any government agency.  The framework instills an environment of principles-based leadership as opposed to rules-based leadership. 

Council believes that transformation is top-driven.  Leaders need victories, and victories in turn infuse team energy. Leaders inspire ambition, according to Council. Transformation requires an understanding of business drivers and direction, innovation, an internalized IT vision for the future, and must drive business value.