Critical Update: Federal CIO Suzette Kent on Leading Governmentwide Transformation

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She joins the podcast to talk about the whole-of-government IT modernization effort and what success will look like.

Modernizing the government’s IT systems will take an all-of-government effort, as many administration officials have said. But there is one official on whose shoulders the entire IT modernization push rests: the federal chief information officer.

Federal CIO Suzette Kent joined Nextgov for the third episode of Critical Update to discuss the challenges agencies face in modernization and what federal leaders—including herself—can do to effect real change.

Leaning on her experience in the private sector, Kent said the government’s challenges are not unlike those of a large, multisector corporation with many lines of business.

“Some of the agencies are more modern agencies and the legacy baggage that they’re pulling with them is much lighter—they have the opportunity to go faster,” she said. “Some of the agencies are much larger. They have a broader workforce, they have deep skills—they have capacity to do things that sometimes smaller agencies don’t.”

Kent said she has been spending most of her time talking to agency leaders to learn about their differing missions, challenges and capabilities.

While Kent sits at the top of the federal IT hierarchy, she’s not pushing for change in a vacuum.

“One person is not going to achieve the entire agenda alone,” she said. Beyond collaboration, Kent sees her role as “setting the right guiding principles and the right focus” for agency CIOs and IT managers down the line.

Kent goes on to talk about how to cultivate the right leadership to achieve results, where federal IT leaders should be focused and what needs to happen before the end of the administration for this IT modernization push to be deemed a success.

She also shares the lessons learned in her two-month crash course on federal IT and her career in the private sector. Plus, whether OMB is planning to install cybernetic implants in federal employees.

You can listen to the full episode below, or download to your device from the Apple store or Google Play.

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