Another important piece of the emerging Federal IT modernization ecosystem is in place now that the General Services Administration (GSA) has given four companies the greenlight to start work on the first phase of five IT Modernization Centers of Excellence (CoEs).

The CoEs are an integral part of the Trump administration’s government-wide IT modernization plan. They will provide agencies with consulting and IT engineering services to help them dramatically improve the way they design services and interact with their customers.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) volunteered to be the first agency to develop Centers of Excellence, and GSA and administration officials hope other agencies will replicate CoEs across the Federal government.

“Getting these phase-one contracts awarded for the Centers of Excellence is really important for keeping up the momentum for IT modernization,” said Mike Hettinger, a former Capitol Hill staffer and now president of The Hettinger Strategy Group. “We are still waiting on funding for the GSA IT Modernization Fund. But to get these contracts in place to begin to plan for what activities the Centers of Excellence will undertake is a critical first step,” he said.

It also appears that GSA awarded contracts to contractors who know their way around GSA and understand the broader issues GSA will face as the government moves forward with the CoE initiative, Hettinger noted.

To perform the work at USDA, GSA issued the awards to SIE Consulting Group for Cloud Adoption; McKinsey & Company, Inc. for IT Infrastructure Optimization; ICF Incorporated, LLC for Customer Experience; Kaiser Associates, Inc. for Contact Center; and ICF Incorporated, LLC for Service Delivery Analytics.

Beginning with USDA, each CoE will tackle distinct tasks. Each CoE will begin with an assessment and planning phase, which will pave the way for the development of a roadmap. The roadmap should allow the USDA to successfully implement centralized, function-specific talent, solutions and acquisition vehicles, according to the GSA. The roadmap will also provide for documented and scalable best-practices that can be rapidly spread to and adopted by other agencies throughout the government.

GSA tapped Bob DeLuca, most recently the chief information officer at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), to implement the day-to-day operations of the CoE initiative. DeLuca led several major transformation efforts at OPIC and brings 20 years of experience in technology, business, and the U.S. military.

“DeLuca will serve as the director of the Centers of Excellence and comes to GSA with technical experience in enterprise software, cloud adoption, infrastructure planning, and execution,” said Joanne Collins Smee, GSA’s acting director of Technology Transformation Services (TTS) and deputy commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service.

The CoE initiative was formally introduced through a Request for Information (RFI) issued on October 20, 2017. Additional information was released at an industry day held at the White House on December 14, 2017.

The CoEs tie into a broader ecosystem for IT modernization across government. The Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act laid the foundation for IT modernization across the Federal government. The White House’s Federal IT Modernization Report will track those agency efforts and provide action items to aid in the move towards more secure, agile, and cost-effective infrastructures. The GSA-housed CoEs compliment those efforts with implementation of technology as well as consulting and IT engineering services. So, it will be critical for agencies going forward to become a part of this government-wide ecosystem for IT modernization.

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