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Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Commerce's CFO, CIO collaboration paying off across the board

The Commerce Department saved more than $200 million in administrative costs over the last two years.

A large portion of that is easily attributable to the collaboration between Scott Quehl, Commerce's chief financial officer, and Simon Szykman, Commerce's chief information officer, who have partnered their offices to root out those inefficiencies.

Quehl and Szykman have formed the type of relationship that is rarely seen among senior agency officials, who many times have competing priorities and viewpoints.

The two offices teamed to reduce spending on back-office funding for things such as computers where Commerce used to support several hundred contracts but worked together to create just one departmentwide vehicle that is saving the agency 35 percent off of the previous cost for computers.

Commerce saw its Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) score from its inspector general increase by 3.5 percent to 81.4 percent in 2011 as compared to 2010, according to the Office of Management and Budget's annual report to Congress.

Quehl said the decision to support Szykman's priorities around cyber was easy when viewed from a risk-management perspective.

One way Commerce ensures departmentwide buy-in is through its investment review board. Quehl and Szykman are co-chairmen of the body, which includes bureau-level decision makers from IT, program, acquisition and financial areas.

Szykman said the boards have evolved over the past three or four years in being more focused on strategy and risk.

Quehl said the department sets standards and expectations for how the bureaus should manage programs and holds each CIO, CFO and other senior decision makers accountable.

One way the CFO and CIO offices are helping the bureaus is through the creation of an enteprisewide program and risk management office.

Szykman said these "third-party" program managers offer an independent perspective on projects to help ensure they stay on track.

The two-year-old office is paying dividends. According to OMB's IT Dashboard, Commerce says 75 percent of all projects are meeting cost estimates and 65 percent are meeting schedule estimates.

The review board also has helped Commerce find and achieve administrative efficiencies.

Szykman said there is a strong CFO interest to advance the efficiency initiatives and move money to mission-critical areas.

-Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio.com

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