HUD leads way in massive IT consolidation effort

The Housing and Urban Development Department is outsourcing its back-end IT systems as part of an effort to increase efficiency and performance, an agency official said Wednesday.

Lisa Schlosser, chief information officer at HUD, said since the department signed performance-based IT services contracts worth $400 million each with Electronic Data Systems and Lockheed Martin Corp. two years ago, IT infrastructure costs have decreased 20 percent. The number of federal employees on the department's IT staff has dropped from 385 to 280.

"No federal employee touches our IT systems at this point," Schlosser said at a breakfast in Washington hosted by Government Executive. "[The department has] outsourced [its] entire infrastructure operation at this point."

Schlosser said the employees whose jobs were outsourced were transferred or upgraded from hands-on technical work to positions requiring project and vendor management, customer relationship, or contract oversight skills. She noted that HUD was early to adopt this kind of model, and that outsourcing won't necessarily be the appropriate route for every agency.

As co-chair of the IT Infrastructure Optimization executive steering committee, an interagency group of federal IT executives established to provide guidance on an initiative to streamline computer system infrastructure across government, Schlosser is in a position to advise other agencies. The initiative is aimed at reducing governmentwide investments in IT infrastructure by 15 percent to 27 percent annually, she said.

That goal could be accomplished in part by standardizing basic infrastructure services, such as desktop computer management, Internet hosting centers and network services, Schlosser said. Agencies will be asked to meet performance benchmarks, she said, and do not have to move to shared service centers, as has been required in separate efforts to consolidate back-end systems in areas such as financial management and human resources.

"We're going to say that the federal government as a whole wants to reach these goals," Schlosser said. "You tell us how you are going to get there."

Some agencies will look to outsourcing their needs to a government-run shared service center while others will look to outsourcing their infrastructure needs to a commercial service provider, Schlosser said.

For larger decentralized agencies, consolidating their infrastructure internally or teaming up with two or three agencies for their infrastructure needs may make more sense, Schlosser said.

"It's going to be up to them to get to the best practice," Schlosser said. "We just want them to get to the best practice."

The General Services Administration is heading up the effort to establish performance standards, by seeking proposals from companies with expertise in that area.

The performance measurements will be established first in desktop computer management. This will be followed by metrics for data centers and for networks. The initiative also will promote the sharing of information and best practices, and the leveraging of aggregate purchases.

Government officials have said on condition of anonymity that the standards risk being vague and agency officials will not be forced to follow them.

But Schlosser said the effort has improved HUD's technology services. The agency's customer satisfaction rate for help desk support jumped from 85 percent a year ago to 93 percent six months ago. About 65 percent of calls to the help desk were resolved the first time around six months ago, up from about 55 percent a year ago.

Prior to signing the contract with EDS and Lockheed, the agency did not measure these statistics, Schlosser said.

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