FCC CIO David Bray on social media, open source, agile development and more

David Bray

Federal Communications Commission Chief Information Officer David Bray participated in our first GitChat, an open Q&A with civic innovators, that leverages GitHub as a discussion platform.

Bray discussed extensively on topics ranging from social media, open data and open source, agile development, IT procurement and more.

Here are key excerpts of the conversation.

On how C-level government executives can leverage social media:

“Pick a few channels to invest in, learn from, and monitor. You don’t have to be everywhere (because your hours are limited) but you do have to be open to inputs and ideas from the public and other partner organizations. Social media is much more than “broadcast” — it is being #open2ideas and #learning&listening from folks … I find I learn a lot from hearing from the views of others, and then have a chance to also share some of the day-to-day challenges facing us in modernizing IT within an existing organization.”

On why gov CIOs aren’t more social:

“Good question — it might be a combination of concerns about ensuring the agency’s message is consistent and uniform. There’s also a lot of pressure right now on public service folks to not take too many risks, because there does seem to be an element that is quick to point out those who take risks and have them not always work out as planned.

I also think there’s a huge pressure on the time commitments for CIO. More of them might be more social if they felt like they had a supportive environment and that them taking the time to do it was valued by their agency leadership.”

On personal vs. public social media usage and voice:

“personally I feel like as a public servant, I have a responsibility to recognize I’m always serving the public and thus under the public view. The role of a public servant requires that we aspire to be available to the public and operate with (1) benevolence, (2) competence, and (3) integrity.

I try to embody these three things wherever I go. What I do and say in-person is the same I would do and say online.

As for content – I do think I have a responsibility to recognize that an in-person context conveys tone of voice, emotion, facial expressions, and eye contact. Online takes that a way so the opportunity for misunderstanding increases.

Also if a question is asked that isn’t in my area of responsibility, I’ll defer and say I’m not the one who can best answer that question for you. Or if it is a case where someone on my team is the better expert than I, I’ll also defer to that individual – as I firmly believe any Agency leader should #empower-your-coders”

On the challenges of being a federal CIO:

“So being a CIO in the public sector requires you to be a “digital diplomat” internally and externally on these challenges and the need to change cultures plus reward mechanisms. It also requires you to be a “human flak jacket” as you work to address these challenges, work horizontally, change cultures, and reward mechanism. Sometimes being that flak jacket means taking metaphorical bullets from all angles.”

On attracting talent:

“I’m working on my end to ensure our HR processes are chugging as best and as fast as they can, and our Procurement processes are also chugging as best and as fast as they can. We’ve 18 months to do something great that’s never been done before, so now is the time to make it happen.

If there are altruistic, dedicated folks who want a reverse IPO = OPI = Opportunity for Positive Impact @FCC … we’re your place, and we’re actively looking for great, proven #Rockstar talent to enable this transformation to happen.”

On open data:

“Some of our data could be made more open in a better fashion, or in some cases a better draw. So as we modernize our systems, we will be planning and implementing both thin UIs as well as APIs to make the data more open to the public and partner organizations. The vision is the FCC is a trusted broker of data in and out appropriately, so that others can remix and analyze the data that we share in new ways.

@GigiBSohnFCC is here and a great advocate for #opendata which I 100% support. Also part of our on-going strategy will be regular engagement with the public and our partners on what data would be most valuable for us to focus our energies first, and go from there. The FCC Chairman’s Process Reform just sought public comment on elements of this and that will help inform what we focus on as top priorities: http://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-seeks-public-comment-report-process-reform”

On open source:

“In general, public service should use existing code — ideally open source code — if what the code provides fits their needs.

If public service is developing code, I generally would like to recommend the code be open source unless there is sufficient legal or mission integrity reason to not make it so.”

On the role of data officers:

“It is also why you’ll note the FCC Information and Data Officers are just that — Information and Data Officers, as separate tracks doesn’t make a lot of sense since the data is in information systems. Plus, since access to the data is tied to modernizing our legacy systems, you will see we have a FCC Chief Enterprise Architect — a new position since my arrival — since frankly the FCC was lacking an enterprise view to either its information systems or its data.

The FCC Chief Enterprise Architect has a Lead for Enterprise Information and Data Integration which is serving as what you might call a CDO, however we opted to call this role that because it emphasizes what we need to do to get the data in a usable form: Enterprise Information and Data Integration.”

On the new 18F:

“I am watching the news reports and want to remain optimistic, however my observation is 18F has not does a great job communicating to other government agencies what they’re doing. In fact, it appears to have been fairly secretive, which seems curious and somewhat odd for an era of increased transparency and open endeavors? Maybe an approach that includes going to other agency CIOs and asked what the big issues you need fixed are, and having that dialogue with other #PublicService CIOs help inform the issues — would be a great one?

To be honest other agency CIOs & I have commented that we hear more about 18F from outside news reporting than inside the public sector itself — that may need to be fixed? :-) Also, naming your endeavor after your street address seems curious in an age where the internet means great #PublicService does not need to be location-based seems puzzling?”

On agile development:

“The good news is FCC has been doing agile and lean since my arrival. We’ve had at least 4 different FCC-wide training sessions on agile, through our IT contractors to both IT staff and programmatic stewards (the folks who the mission-centric systems are being built for) on agile, as the process needs to involve them in tandem, working together. Another reason why I believe you can’t abstract too much from the programmatic stewards and succeed with IT. It’s why I’m encouraging Intrapreneurs — entrepreneurs on the inside — at FCC.”

On IT procurement:

“Lastly, if I was to urge where to place attention and energy, it would be on educating Procurement shops — and the General Counsels of agencies that provide legal guidance on what can and cannot be procured — as to what’s possible. If you want people to take risks, be lean, be agile, and do great stuff taking these steps to #empower-the-edge and #empower-your-coders are great first steps!”

Read the full discussion.

About Luke Fretwell

Luke Fretwell is the founder of GovFresh. He is also co-founder and CEO of ProudCity. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or email at luke@govfresh.com.

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