OPM's Social Media and Openness Struggles

The agency has had difficulty deciding how to implement policies.

A move to a more open, collaborative and transparent workforce at the Office of Personnel Management has not been without some challenges, particularly when it comes to embracing social media and changing agency culture, according to documents released Friday.

Version 2.0 of OPM’s open government plan noted that the agency has made some great strides in implementing its open government plan since it was first released in April 2010. These initiatives included a redesign of OPM’s open government website, greater sharing of data and information via Data.gov, collaboration with other federal agencies and nonprofits, and a refresh of OPM.gov, which is set to go live later this year.

“Openness is much more than providing data or standing up new tools,” OPM Director John Berry said in the report. “Innovation is linked with openness, and we explored the intersection of people, processes and technology in the context of innovation. We know people are our greatest asset.”

Still, progress on open government has run into obstacles, the report noted. Because of issues such as limited resources, protecting personal information and preserving freedom of speech, OPM has had difficulty in coming to a consensus on how it should implement an agencywide social media policy.

As expected, funding also has been an issue for OPM, which has produced strategies for implementing its open government plans but has not generally been successful in securing the funds necessary for executing them. As a result, OPM has shifted its attention to pooling resources with other agencies to find ways to develop and share tools and by moving to open source solutions, the report noted.

Meanwhile, the plan outlines several new open government initiatives OPM aims to execute in the next couple of years, including moving to a more open performance management culture and establishing collaborative networks.

Starting in 2013, the agency also will launch its flagship initiative, which entails centralizing call centers and help desks. The program was touted as OPM’s leading open government project in its 2010 report, but the agency said it needs to ensure a more collaborative and performance-based culture as well as the financial resources to make the initiative possible.

“The goal is to provide more logical, less frustrating access to our services,” the report stated. "The flagship initiative addresses transparency by making it easier for members of the public to get answers from OPM, where appropriate, and it addresses collaboration by encouraging employees to work together to speak in one voice."