GSA slams its way through IT improvements

One-day workshop addresses important technology projects, says agency CIO.

The General Services Administration has adopted a new strategy to address its critical information technology challenges, according to an agency official.

GSA recently conducted a slam -- a one-day, high-energy meeting with key officials who commit to taking concrete steps toward completing outstanding projects by a particular deadline, said Chief Information Officer Casey Coleman in an interview with Nextgov.

The slam addressed five initiatives that, according to Coleman, were chosen as the most critical "building blocks" for more advanced IT capabilities. Those projects included upgrading employee computers to Microsoft Office 2007; installing new Voice over Internet Protocol phone systems; improving remote access for teleworkers; enabling Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 identification cards for network access; and expanding and strengthening agency bandwidth.

GSA hosted the slam in late April and completed each project before the July 4 deadline. Coleman said the key to the technique is to have all parties, including officials involved in budgeting, engineering, procurement and building, in the same room and ready to commit to a project at once.

"The alternate approach is to work with each stakeholder group separately," she said. "We would have been serving as a connector, but wouldn't have been doing it as rapidly with the same kind of energy, commitment, buy-in and peer pressure."

GSA is modernizing its IT systems and replacing its legacy infrastructure with new technologies and will be working on projects to support its zero environmental footprint goal, including improved video teleconferencing and collaboration capabilities, shared network printers and lower energy use for computer systems. The agency will host a slam for sustainability-related projects soon, Coleman said. She added that her office will consider holding future virtual slams, particularly for projects that could take more than one day.

According to Coleman, it was important to have a well-defined challenge and project timeline ahead of the event. If most of the preliminary work is accomplished, then the slam can accelerate progress, she said.

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