Parting's sweet sorrow
- By Gail Repsher Emery
- Aug 14, 2003
Industry officials praise Forman's accomplishments, fret about the future
OMB's Mark Forman left his office for the public sector Aug. 15.
Henrik G. de Gyor
Over the last two years, Mark Forman got industry and government to buy in to his agenda for better management: simplify and unify information technology across the government by developing cross-agency initiatives and justifying investments with solid business cases.
His departure for the private sector Aug. 15 has industry officials praising his accomplishments while also expressing concern that e-government momentum not be lost.
During Forman's tenure as the federal government's top IT official, 25 cross-agency e-gov projects were launched, many of which have made tangible progress.
Forman's job was made permanent through legislation; agencies began a rigorous business case process that in some instances required multiple revisions to secure funding; and new projects were undertaken, including an initiative promoting governmentwide software licensing.
But in early August, Forman's office confirmed rumors that he would soon leave his Office of Management and Budget post as administrator of e-government and information technology. As of press time, OMB officials had not disclosed Forman's destination, but an OMB source said he was headed to a Silicon Valley startup. Forman was traveling and could not be reached for comment.
Norm Lorentz, OMB's chief technology officer, will be acting administrator for e-government and IT, OMB said.
OMB spokesman Trent Duffy said the administration remains committed to
e-government and improving the government's use of IT. Industry executives said they expect Lorentz, a proponent of technology innovation, will carry the e-gov mantle forward.
However, they said OMB should move quickly to fill Forman's position permanently, or there is a risk that the momentum Forman built will begin to fade.
"It's important that the job is filled as quickly as possible, so we don't lose direction and leadership," said David McClure, vice president for e-government at the Council for Excellence in Government, a Washington nonprofit group.
"The concerns people have with his departure are about the momentum and focus on what we are trying to achieve: citizen-centric government, simplification of government services and more effective citizen and business interaction with government," McClure said. "We assume those [goals] will remain in place, but it is very important that somebody be in that statutorily created position."
Industry executives and government officials have been reluctant to name possible successors. Doing so "would be the kiss of death," said Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America, an Arlington, Va., trade group.
Industry officials, reacting to the news of Forman's departure, praised his efforts to collaborate with industry, build consensus around his agenda, encourage the use of new technology and demonstrate how IT can improve efficiency and effectiveness in government.
"He was an effective advocate, driving e-government across the federal government," said Steve Rohleder, group chief executive for the government operating group at Accenture Ltd. of Hamilton, Bermuda. "Before Mark took that job, there was a sense that everybody was doing their own thing from a technology standpoint. He emphasized sharing and collaboration and innovation in a way you seldom see in leadership positions."
Forman was hired in June 2001. He joined OMB from Unisys Corp. of Blue Bell, Pa., where he was vice president of electronic business. Previously, he directed Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM Corp.'s e-government consulting practice.
Forman had also worked in government, in the General Accounting Office and as a senior professional staff member on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, where he helped draft several procurement laws.
In a July 22 forum on the Washington Technology
Web site, Forman was asked how long he wanted to stay in his position and what accomplishments he still wanted to see.
"So I'm not a nice enough guy to keep around?" Forman replied. "Seriously, we have built a very strong team across the government and are seeing results. I want to see more."
Forman said he'd like to see substantial agency improvement in IT security, and at least 25 percent of the largest 26 federal agencies getting green -- the highest level -- scores in e-government from OMB within a year.
It's unfortunate Forman couldn't stay to see his vision come to fruition, but "I'm sure OMB will find somebody like-minded," Rohleder said.
Forman's dialogue with industry helped IT contractors better understand the government's needs and also focused sales efforts, Rohleder said.
"A lot of times, industry is guessing what government's needs are. He set a direction that was clear, concise and direct," Rohleder said. "It streamlined the way we chase business. Instead of going to five agencies, if you have a coordinating body that says we are going to put in one HR system across government, it's much easier for industry to work with one point of contact."
Forman's combination of industry and government experience was critical to his success, and should be sought in his successor, private-sector sources said.
"It's not an easy job. Mark has provided a model," McClure said. "He has a unique combination of government, business and political experience, all of which were brought to bear on the position. I think these traits are what we need to look for in a successor."
Forman's successor does not need to be a technology expert, Miller said.
"You need to know how computer systems operate, but you don't need to be a technician," he said. "You need someone who is a leader and a manager, and someone who can put forth a vision and execute against it, as Mark has done.
"I would encourage the administration once again to reach out into industry" for a replacement, Miller said. "Mark spent time working in government, but the fact he was an outsider meant he was able to shake things up a bit and be innovative."
Staff Writer Gail Repsher Emery can be reached at email@example.com. Government Computer News Staff Writer Jason Miller contributed to this story. For more coverage on Forman go to QuickFind at www.washing
tontechnology.com and type in 112.