VA CIO LaVerne Council: IT plan provides ‘stepping stones’ for 2016

VA CIO LaVerne Council wrote a letter of reflection to her staff Monday in which she described how her office can capitalize on the achievements of 2015. Council, shown in this photo speaking at FedTalks 2015 in November, was a FedScoop 50 Golden Gov winner. (FedScoop)

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Chief Information Officer LaVerne Council hopes to build on the early successes of her IT transformation and place more focus on the needs of veterans, she wrote in an email to her staff Monday.

Since her confirmation as CIO and assistant secretary for information and technology in July, Council unveiled an entirely new IT strategy for the Office of Information and Technology. But, “[a]s we look to 2016, we owe it to ourselves to understand that these accomplishments are stepping stones,” she wrote in the email obtained by FedScoop. “We are just beginning.”

“Every day we’re taking new steps to implement the IT Enterprise Strategy, a guidepost directly aligned to our business partners’ strategies,” the email says. “Each accomplishment is another step forward in placing the Veteran in the center of everything we do on our quest to enable the world-class care and services they deserve.”

Under that strategy, Council’s team, in a few months’ time, introduced an enterprise cybersecurity plan and an enterprise program management office, and began laying the groundwork for an IT account management team, which “will provide invested, real-time strategic leadership on issues like portfolio balancing and service delivery, providing a unifying force between our business partners and our [program management office] team,” she wrote.

“We’ve unified as a team behind the IT Enterprise Strategy,” Council’s email says. “Now we must execute to completion to eliminate our material weakness.”

That team she writes of looks very different than it did just a year prior. Council’s predecessor — acting CIO and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for OI&T Stephen Warren — left the department in August, as did his chief information security officer, Stan Lowe, who had served in the position since 2013. Several other high-profile positions have been shuffled since Council took office. In recent months, she promoted Rob Thomas to head the program management office and recruited Ron Thompson from the Department of Health and Human Services to take over as her No. 2.

[Read more: Veterans CIO lives the brief life of a political appointee.]

Finally — and most importantly, she wrote — her office is shifting its focus from operations back to the customer’s — the veteran’s — needs.

“We’ve begun to create the cultural shift that removes the focus from us – the OI&T team – and places it where it belongs, on the Veteran,” the email reads. “Every week I see or hear about IT employees embodying these key characteristics or living with the Veteran at the center of their work.”

Reach the reporter on this story at billy.mitchell@fedscoop.com. Follow him on Twitter @BillyMitchell89.

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Department of Veterans Affairs, Departments, Government IT News, Innovation, LaVerne Council, Workforce & Leadership