The Secrets Of The Most Social CIO In The World

September 08, 2015
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by Peter High, published on Forbes


When David Bray joined the Federal Communications Commission in 2013, it had had roughly nine CIOs in eight years. Clearly something new needed to happen. Though Bray was still in his 30s, he had been in government for more than half his life, as his government service began at the age of 15. The IT department had a significant need to modernize. Bray recognized that cloud computing and “as-a-service” technology represented a significant opportunity to modernize the FCC’s technology portfolio.

At the same time, in less than two years, he has gone from zero to more than 142,000 Twitter followers. He has creatively leveraged that and other networks he has created for inspiration for new ideas, to test ideas, and to help others. In this interview, he shares the details of his career journey, the transformation he has led at the FCC, the way in which he sees his job as part venture capitalist, the benefits of being social, and a variety of other topics.

(To listen to an unabridged audio version of this interview, please click this link. This is the 27th article in the CIO’s First 100 Days series. To listen to the prior 26 with the CIOs of Intel, J. Crew, GE, CVS Caremark, and Ecolab among many others, please visit this link. To read future articles in the series, please click the “Follow” link to the upper left-hand part of this page.)

Peter High: Most people are probably familiar with the FCC, but perhaps not the inner workings of it, and certainly not the inner workings of the CIO’s role. Could you take a few moments to introduce your role within the organization?

David Bray: Sure. I parachuted into my role as CIO of the FCC about 20 months ago. When I arrived, there had been about nine CIOs in eight years prior to my arrival. The FCC itself is about 18 different bureaus and offices with about 1,750 government employees. Our scope is anything involving wired or wireless across the United States.

My role as CIO was focused on the fact that when I arrived, I assessed that they had about 207 different IT systems – again, for only 1,750 people. I sometimes joke that I’m Oprah Winfrey – “Look under your chair, everyone is going to go home today and you get an IT system. Take it, it’s free!” I think we got there because over the last 20 years, whenever there was a new request, either from the administration, or from Congress, or whether it was a new law, the FCC would roll out a new IT system. That works for the first five or ten years, but over time you accumulate so many different IT systems that at least 80% of our IT budget was spent merely sustaining what we already had. That limited what I could do in terms of new development. While I am sure I could spend the next five or ten years updating each one of those 207 systems – and I should note that more than half of them are over ten years old – I think by the time I did that I would have to do it all over again.

We decided to do a new shift technology-wise to move to a common data platform that would be cloud based. We take the data from legacy systems and build a thin user interface with reusable code because there may be elements that are common across these different systems like user authentication, export to PDF, and map production that we do not have to produce 207 different times. Instead, we could reuse that code as part of a service catalog and that way we can be more effective and efficient in what we are doing. We have had some early successes.

We have also addressed the human element. The team was at half strength and while we are probably not going to bring it back to historical strength size-wise, we are trying to bring in new people and integrate them with the existing staff.

To read the full article, please visit Forbes

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