Since its inception in 2009, the Recovery Act and Transparency Board has become one of the federal government’s swiftest moving agencies, especially when it comes to information technology.
In an interview with FedScoop, Shawn Kingsberry, the agency's chief information officer and one of the RATB’s first employees, said the agency took a unique approach to implementing new IT systems: It wrote a white paper to help itself gather the proper information before jumping in.
“We interviewed people that had already migrated their email and collaboration solutions to the cloud to get their perspective,” Kingsberry said. “We wanted the positives, the challenges they faced, the risks and also to learn the true cost of implementing a system like that.”
In total, Kingsberry and his team interviewed about 30 people – a mix of both government and industry – to create the white paper and also give them a view of what they wanted RATB’s system to look like.
Kingsberry decided on having RATB build its own cloud hub, where the agency could act as its own cloud broker. The agency also used its own security stack that addresses the agency’s security concerns.
Ultimately, RATB went with Microsoft’s Office 365, becoming the first federal agency to jump in the company’s government cloud, mostly because Microsoft’s model worked well with the RATB’s cloud brokering system.
“We really moved fast with our implementation,” Kingsberry said. “We thought about it and did a lot of planning for two months, but then the transition only took weeks.”
One of the key parts of move, Kingsberry said, was minimal impact on the agency’s customers – something his team was able to achieve.
Quick transitions, though, are nothing new to Kingsberry and the RATB. He was called upon to join the board after 17 years as the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, originally as CTO.
“We had a lot of things to do in a short matter of time, but we also had a motivated group of type A personalities that were driven to get it done,” Kingsberry said.
One of his first jobs was to meet with the owners of the different financial reporting systems within the federal government to see if they could be used to feed the information into recovery.gov.
Kingsberry quickly learned that would be too big a challenge, so it necessitated the board stand up federalreporting.gov for agencies to report their figures into.
All of it was a whirlwind few months for Kingsberry. The board was working out of the library at the U.S. General Services Administration and using infrastructure already in place around the federal government in order to meet its quick mandate.
“What made RATB interesting was the government got to hand pick its people,” said Kingsberry, equating the agency to an All-Star team of federal workers. “We had so many people motivated by a historic mission, and I was happy to have a role in it. It’s been the greatest thing I’ve been a part of in my career.”