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CIO Council's best practices portal remains a work in progress

The Chief Information Officer Council is working on a Web portal where information technology workers can share best practices in federal IT. But whether that portal is up and running yet isn't entirely clear.

The 25-Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal IT, published by former federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra in 2010, describes it as "a collaboration portal to exchange best practices and case studies, and allow for real-time problem solving."

"To institutionalize this best practice sharing," the description continues, "agency [project managers] will submit post-implementation reviews of their major program deliveries to the portal. These reviews will populate a searchable database of synthesized and codified program management best practices that all [project managers] can access."

The deadline for the best practices portal was June 2011. A checklist of 25-point plan items presented by current CIO Steven VanRoekel in December 2011 lists the portal as "delivered."

While there is no searchable database of CIO best practices yet, CIO office spokeswoman Moira Mack told Nextgov the portal requirement was met by a collection of 10 best practices case studies posted between April and June 2011 and by an ongoing series of blog posts by agency CIOs.

She described the white papers and blog posts as a "soft launch" of the best practices portal.

"As development of the portal continues in order to support more robust exchanges, agencies are sharing best practices and lessons learned at CIO.gov as described above and through the CIO Council," she said.

The best practices papers and blog posts are presented on a scrolling platform rather than in a searchable database and generally are searchable only through CIO.gov's main search bar. The best practices list also hasn't been updated since June.

Meanwhile, the CIO Council's best practices committee is working on a synthesized and codified database of IT best practices, said Susan Gabriel-Smith, an Agriculture Department management analyst who's working on the portal for Agriculture CIO Chris Smith, a co-chairman of the best practices committee.

There's no firm deadline for when the portal will be up and running, but it will certainly be up by the end of 2012, Gabriel-Smith said.

The portal likely will include descriptions of best practices themselves, a place where other IT chiefs can vote on which practices are most effective, and a widget that allows users to vote practices up or down, she said.

That's similar to an IdeaScale wiki VanRoekel set up in mid-January to crowdsource ideas for his new Federal Mobility Roadmap. The best practices committee still hasn't determined just how best practice will be defined or who will be able to vote on them, Gabriel-Smith added.

"We're trying to roll this out in an organized fashion," she said. "We'll start with a pilot group in the CIO Council and then [move] to the [higher level IT workers]. We feel that smaller agencies especially could benefit from this site," she said because they have less budget flexibility.

Gabriel-Smith said she doesn't know who put together the list of PDF best practices posted in June, but believes it was done outside the best practices committee.

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