FedScoop Interview: Simon Szykman
In many ways, federal chief information officers answer to many bosses: agency and department leaders, citizens, employees, the White House – and finally – the technology market itself.
Simon Szykman, the chief information officer at the Department of Commerce, said many of the current technology trends in the federal government – a large number of which align with Office of Management and Budget’s mandates – would happen regardless.
“For example, I think cloud computing is one of these trends where the private sector has been moving in that direction. There was no question that the government was going to be also moving in that direction as well,” Szykman said. “It’s just a matter of how long it takes for the government to have uptake of those types of trends.”
So, it’s no wonder that many of Szykman’s main projects and priorities these days fit into the trends being seen elsewhere in government, such as with cloud computing, mobility, security and others.
In the cyber area, Szykman said the department is in the process of doing an acquisition for implementing a department-wide continuous monitoring system with the deployment expected at the beginning of next fiscal year.
“Continuous monitoring is something we have been doing in the department for quite some time, but it’s historically been done at the system level or the bureau level,” he said. “What we haven’t had before is a department-wide continuous monitoring system that would roll data up and give visibility across the entire department as one enterprise to provide us with that near real-time situational awareness from a security perspective.”
In the area of efficiency and effectiveness, Szykman said earlier this year the Department of Commerce put out a single consolidated contract for purchasing computers and laptops. He said the agency has already seen contract savings around 35 percent over what it’s historically spent.
The agency also had significant improvements in printers and print management, along with cell phone management by retooling several contracts.
“The other area where we are focusing on some of these efficiencies initiatives is in implementing internally a variety of activities in the area of shared services,” Szykman said. “Some of the shared services are within the larger bureaus. Others are internal to the bureaus and may have been more decentralized, but now they are moving toward centralizing some of their services to reduce cost.”
He continued, “Here in the headquarters building we have about half a dozen different bureaus that are different operating units with the Department of Commerce and historically those have all had independently managed services, but we are starting to look at doing some services consolidation here at the headquarters building as well.”
One area Szykman said he would like to spend more time is in the area of digital government. He said that government is behind the private sector in supporting mobile apps, so he said that he would like to have the resources to more aggressively push a digital government strategy.
“It’s an interesting time for digital government and something we want to step deeper into,” he said.