the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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Best Practices from the Best Companies

Summary: 
The President has long believed that some of the best ideas come from outside Washington – especially when it comes to reforming Washington.

The President has long believed that some of the best ideas come from outside Washington – especially when it comes to reforming Washington. That’s why he launched the SAVE Award, a chance for federal workers across the country to offer their best ideas about how to cut costs and improve performance, and it’s why he convened the White House Forum on Modernizing Government in January. There, we welcomed 50 CEO’s from many different sectors and sized businesses to hear their thoughts about how we can take the best practices of the private sector on increasing efficiency and effectiveness and apply them to the federal government.

Since then, we have taken some of the best ideas and put them into practice.

First, we’re making good progress in our efforts to improve the results of large-scale IT projects across the Federal Government. Consistent with the advice from many Forum participants, we’re intervening in high-risk projects while at the same time undertaking a structural review of our IT procurement and management practices. On the high-risk front, we are pulling together cross-functional leaders at the earliest signs of trouble to take corrective actions either to get projects back on track or terminate them as quickly as possible.

And, inspired by the best practices Forum participants shared with us regarding project scope and duration, we are taking aggressive action on financial system modernization projects in particular, as these types of projects have been plagued by persistent problems. On June 28, we halted all financial system modernization projects across the Federal Government. Agencies now are working to meaningfully reduce the size, cost, and complexity of each project. Agencies are closely examining options to terminate, defer, or significantly reset the scope of their projects. These actions will reduce project costs by hundreds of millions of dollars and will increase the likelihood of success. For example, the Department of Veterans Affairs recently terminated a financial system project after determining it was unlikely to succeed, saving $300 million.

In addition to large scale IT project management, our Forum discussions focused on customer service, and we’re making progress on this front as well. We have launched a multi-agency project to review customer service standards and the metrics used to track performance against those standards. We will make this information available to the public both to set customer expectations and to encourage effective performance management and oversight.

We also are reviewing organizational obstacles that get in the way of the type of customer service best practices that surfaced during the Forum. For example, in most agencies, website and call center teams currently are run as separate operations with very little interaction, which is contrary to the practice of the best performing private sector organizations. We also are working to overcome the regulatory and logistical constraints on agency efforts to capture and act on customer satisfaction and feedback. We’ve already issued new guidance to enable agencies to use social media and web analytics to better connect with citizens and will have more to announce in the months ahead.

Finally, we are working to keep the dialogue going between private and public sector managers. Not only are many Deputy Secretaries (agency COOs) in contact with their private sector counterparts, but this spring, the President issued an Executive Order creating the President’s Management Advisory Board to provide the President and the President's Management Council advice on the implementation of business best practices to improve Federal Government management and operations. We will be announcing Board members and holding our first meeting later this year, and we look forward to it serving as a lasting resource for bringing private sector expertise into government operations.

Overall, while there are key differences between the government and the private sector, there is much we can learn from high-performing private sector organizations – and this Administration is committed to doing just that.