Sonny Hashmi, CIO, General Services Administration

Sonny Hashmi is the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). Named as CIO in May 2014, Mr. Hashmi is responsible for managing the agency's $600 million Information Technology (IT) budget and ensuring alignment with agency and administration strategic objectives, information security and enterprise architecture.


Jul 18, 2014

Sonny Hashmi is the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).  Named as CIO in May 2014, Mr. Hashmi is responsible for managing the agency's $600 million Information Technology (IT) budget and ensuring alignment with agency and administration strategic objectives, information security and enterprise architecture.

Mr. Hashmi most recently served as GSA's Acting CIO, a position he held beginning in February 2014. Previously, he served as the agency’s Deputy CIO and Chief Technology Officer. While in these positions he led several technology initiatives that leveraged emerging technologies to modernize and improve GSA operations. He also provided oversight of GSA’s IT projects, implemented the digital government strategy and was a major force towards adoption of cloud for GSA’s email, collaboration and applications as well as creating agile practices for cloud development.

Prior to joining GSA, Mr. Hashmi was the Deputy CIO for the District of Columbia, Office of the Chief Financial Officer. He championed and successfully delivered many initiatives including large system modernization projects, implementation of a District-wide business intelligence platform for agency financial management and oversaw business process automation. Mr. Hashmi also worked for private sector organizations leading large scale initiatives for federal, state and local government agencies.

Mr. Hashmi is active in the federal IT community. He received the 2013 Federal 100 award for Digital Government Innovation - as a “cloud expander.”  Other awards include his team’s win of the 2011 GCN award for (Cloud) Enterprise E-mail and Collaboration.

Named in 2013 as among the five most social federal CIOs on Twitter, he is actively engaged on social media and online federal IT communities of interest. You can follow Mr. Hashmi on Twitter at @GSA_CIO and read the GSA CIO's blog, Around the Corner, on

Mr. Hashmi has a master’s in engineering from Purdue University and a master’s certificate in innovation management from the University of Maryland.



[00:05] Hello welcome to episode number 69 of CXOTalk. I’m Michael Krigsman and herewith my - I keep you know I lie in bed at nighttrying to think of superlatives to describe my very friendly and wonderful co-host Vala Afshar.We have just donea fist bump that nobody can see because it's between us.Even thoughwe're in the same room we have separate cameras, so Vala.


[00:38] I am super excited to have an opportunity to speak to one of the most extraordinary CIO's thatI had the good fortune to me through social media and now I have anopportunity tospeak to live and learn from. Welcome Sonny Hashimi.


[00:54] Thank you so muchMichael and I'm doing great. Thank you for inviting me. I’m very excited to be here.


[01:06] Sonny is the CIO of the General Services Administration which is enormous and in addition to everything else you are the largest landlord in the world right?


[01:19] We are an interesting agency and have a very proud mission we are the largest landlord in the world. We manage about10,000 facilities about a third of a billion square feet of office space across the nation. Overseas we manage about 210,000 fleet cars which make us larger than Hertz, Budget and any of the other large fleet providers combined in some cases.

We manage billions of dollars in acquisitions that ourgovernment relies on every day to service citizens.

[01:55]We are a very interesting agency and in additional to that we have a very important missionto influence federalwide government policiesand information technology.

It's been interesting. I've been here forabout three years now and there’s never a dull moment wherewe are not able to exert our influence or have an impactin the larger federal community in some way, so this is a very profitable subdivision.


[02:27] That’s fantastic. Well Sonny, one from our audience said youreceived the 2014 Federal 100 Award for Digital Government Innovation for your work as a cloud expander. You are also namedin 2013 as one of the top most social federal CIO's in the country,so can you talk a little bit are about your role as the CIOat the GSA.


[02:57]Yes thank you! I should clarify thethe top social CIO award was far moreimportant to methan the Federal 100 in some ways, because the company was just amazing and thank you Vala for your kindness on that.

myrole with GSA is interesting. I feel like I’mpart of the community in GSA which extends beyond our agency.Where we think about and envision for the future of federal IT looks like.

GSA like I said has many different roles to play in the federal government whether its policy, through our offices, services and innovative technology really [03:43] championing use of modern technology, cloud, social, and mobile to improve the government-wideInformation Technology posture or whether it is implementing and managing ourInformation Technology infrastructure.

We play a wide role in a wide gamut of things. I'm very fortunate that I get to work with so many brilliant smart exceptional CIO's across the federal governmenton a day-to-day basis. We are thrilledto work closely with them to make them successful in their missions.

At GSA, we as any medium large-sized federal organization have about 17,000 users.[04:27]We are located in 200 different locations across the countryand overseas.We have folks like I said earlierwho manage federal buildings, managed the fleet whohelp our agency partners buy better, buy smarter,who help our industry partners sell better, sell cheaper, sellfaster.

In that mission we have a full gamut of IT servicesas a critical business partnerto further that mission.My organization manages $500 million a year of IT investments,which when it all began ran the basic infrastructure,enablement, making sure the users have access to the data, tools andtechnologies that need to be able to work [05:14] effectively anywhere they are, any tools, any device anywhere anytime.

In time we managed lots of business systems, lots ofapplications that are all constantly being looked at and improvedto provide a better experience, not only to our end-users but also ourcustomers.

Like any agencies we have ourset of challenges,but beyond that we work  very closely withmany of my partners across federal government to make sure that whatever we do is done in a way that they leverage, learn from,useor get some value out of.

Therefore everything that we do also lendtowards,how can this be done in a way that the next agency can get some value out of it. They don’t have to reinvest this wheel.

[06:02]It's been it's been an interesting challenge from that perspective as wellbecause I think you look at the last five or six years, the federalIT community has come a long way.Adoption of cloud, mobileand the adoption of private sector modern technologiesand processes likeDivup development are now commonplace or becomingcommonplace in the federal government.

It is an opportunity for us and has an opportunity for us to do it once and well,rather than every agency having to tread that path individually and this is whereGSA comes in.

We are very proud of the work we've done. Our work is never ending but happy to share some of those stories with you today.


[06:41]We met aboutthree years ago and I know that you are a very strong supporter of cloud and you mention modern technologies like cloud and Divupsand so forth.Soup until relatively recently the deputy CIOat the GSA and your predecessor, Casey Coleman of course was a guest onCXOTalk in the past. Now asCISO can you articulateyour agenda. What are you trying to drive and how are yougoing to shape IT and ashape the relevant parts of the GSA under youryour guidance.


[07:23]That's a great question and I think it's not just my agendabut we have a fantastic teamthat's in place GSA and work together incredibly hard to go to the next level.

For the last few years our overarching battle cry, our theme song wasCasey’s vision which was an extremely compelling solid far-reaching vision and summed it up in three words:any device, anywhere, anytime that we called the A3strategy

Basically it sounds very simplistic but it was a very far-reaching strategy to make sure that we have an IT infrastructure that allowsGSA employees and partners to be able to connect with us, [08:05]connect with each other and be productive no matter where they are in the world that allows them to be fully mobile. That allows them to tellthe world but also be next to our customers and be productive beyond and just being able toconnectto the network so that we have social networks within GSA where people andcommunities of interest can come together. That goes beyond just the basicexchanging emails with each other and can really be productive anywhere.You have to connect with each other in new ways and that's what we've beenfocused on for the last few years.

We made a tremendous progress on that branch. GSA is the highest adoptingtelework in the federal government at this point. 80%plus of GSA employees telework on a regular basis, we have fully virtual employees and have technology that enables people to do thatand through an optionthrough cloudwe have saved a tremendous amount of money and resources in getting there.

[08:54]Our nexta chapter of our journey is focused on our customers.We want to be a customer organization. We want to to put our customerswhether it’sagency partners or whether it's our vendor community that work withor our citizens,we want to put them in the center of our universe and that requires a next big picture thinking.

Our next iteration of the A3 strategies what we are calling the I3 strategy and I3 stands forour systems, products or processes will beintegrated,intuitive and innovative.Those are the three I’s that we focus on.What that is trying to say to us is any investments that we make, any project we undertake,and any product that we build to a website of an applicationor largely a business process. [09:40]The needs to focusand to start from the customerexperience first.The need to be designed from the ground up to be integrated with other processes,to data through API's, to openness, and with the intuitiveto use and innovative leveraging brand new modernflexible technologies.

That will be kind of theblueprint as we move forward.Our next focus for the next fiveyear is going to be very heavily focused towards modernizing legacy,business systems, automating processes that are not yet automated. Getting rid of paper and really going to an environment where our customerscan come in andwork with GSA in an intuitive way.We have our life cycle understanding of who they are, where they are, what they want to do,and provide them with an excellent customer experience.

[10:29] That’sour next iteration of our strategy. We have a lot of work to do to get there, but I think now largely not solved but have gotten over the challenge of the traditional infrastructure of the agency.I’m sitting the beautiful 1800 F Street headquarterslocation, where we are fully shared space, fully open space.

A lot of technology investments made over the last five years have enabled us to gethere.I think our next generation, the next chapter in our stories toreally focus on the customer experience


[11:07] You were semi recently also recognize for public Serviceto America Medal for your drive to the cloud where the initiative was to developan environment that enhances employee productivity.Can you talk a little bit about your cloud adoptioninitiatives?

In addition to that I read aboutits socially networked with 10,000 internal and external users withthousands of active communities and how the combination of the cloudand your vibrant social network collaboration frameworkwill save millions of dollars of the GSA and bringtremendous level about efficiency to the business,if you could talk a little bit about that.


[11:54] YeahI'm happyto. First of all it’s a great honor to be nominated for the Service to America Medals. It was humbling because when I seeother federal employees who were nominated in the same category as I am and thereliterally curing cancer and sending satellites to space and here I amwith some IT work. So it's extremely humbling and I don't mean that in any diminishing way at all.It's a great honor.

When I look at Cloud I think cloud iskind of a dirty word now. Cloud is looked as as a standalone thing thatwe have to go and solve foror over there and it's not that. I think cloud isa piece of a much bigger puzzle. [12:37]Though when you go up a level around cloud, you see that the landscape, the industry, the way smart companies are buildinginfrastructure, solutions, applications, and mechanismsjust to deliver value, to understand their customerand to create an environment where people can work together.

It's a combination of cloud. It’s a combination of mobile technology,social technology and data. Big data and analyticsit comes together into an environment where people connect with each other.They can have access to the information when they need it and they canhave access to data when they need it. And they can actually execute the business in an automated way.

[13:25] When you look at modern organizations, myvision is again going back to the I3 strategyand GSA employees should be able to have access to the peoplethey need to connect with, the processes that they need to execute,the data they need and the documents and the tools that they need to executetheir business from their mobile device - from their cell phone.

If you can get there then you can do a lot right, because you can solve for Xonce you have that basic framework figured out. I think the technologyworld is there nowright. We have great platforms, great tools, great technologies, great industrypartnerswho are doing this every day in the private sector. Yet for some reason,we haven't been able to solve or bring that innovation to governments. So that'swhat we've been focused on.

[14:08] What we did was we ask ourselves, what is a business application?Ultimately, a business application is nothing but the abilityof an employee to take the correct action at the correct time,using the correct data in collaboration with the correct people.That's ultimately a business application. If you can bring together the people you need to talk to, the community of interest if you will, the data anddocuments you need when you need it and the business processes that you need to executearound the same topic at the same time and the right deviceyou can do great things.

So what we did was we said maybe a business application should look like a form that was automated. Itshould actually start with social first right because ultimately,if people can talk to each other that's where the magic happens. [14:56] Most thetime the actual magic is happening in the hallwayoutside of the office then people are saying,Hey, you want to walk through that thing,I saw your request can I approve it. whatis the context of it.They have a conversation and they go back to their offices and desks and say,okay nowthat I've had this conversationI can click the right button.

Let's bring that all together because especially ifthe people are not going to be in the same building at the same time.Mobility, telework and it’s going to be harder and harderto do it at that site. So let's start with social first. Let's connect people.

What we did was we implemented our social network. It is a private social network within GSA. There isabout 17,000 people who are participating in it.We have about 10-12,000who log in every day. It’sextremely vibrant. [15:39] We have over a 1000 of communitiesof interest aroundall sorts of interesting topics and amazing things have already happened, so that’s just the socialplay, right.

Then we said okay this is great,now we have a vibrant community of people who are talking to each other.They may not know each other but talking about topics on interest.

Let’s overlay documents. Let's overlay data. So now not only are they talking with each other talking in the context documents around data and sharing knowledge.

Then let’s overly business processes. So ifwe can do that ssthat we can do it quickly and cheaply,then powerful things start happening. For example,one of the challenges we had before we consolidated our IT operations GSA, whichwas about a year ago. [16:23] We were struggling with really understandingon how our projects are performing.

We manage hundreds of projects in IT a loanevery year across the country and there's really no onesort of belly button to say okay, what our overall formatlook like, where the risks,whose working on what, and what's coming. Then  when the administer would askorat that point my boss okay, so where are the risks,which projects are about to hit when. We couldn't answer those questions without data call and calling people.

So we used this platform to literally in three days, develop a project management app, and it started out as a minimally viable smallproduct andgrew from there. Very agile and very responsive to when peopleactually need it. [17:08] Basicallythe old concept was this. Let’s connect people first. Let's give them some forms and data that they can access for business process to fill out. So it shouldn't be about fill out this form about a project. Itshould be about,here is a community interestedaround this project. Everybody's interested in this,so connect here and oh by the way, the product managers is going to have access tosome tools and toprocessesto provide a richer data. We are going toconnect it with our financial system andwith our other products so we have a full picture with what the project is.

About a year later we are at apoint now where I can go and click one button and know across my entire product portfolio, which is over 300 or so projectsexactly what my schedule variance is, exactly what the cost variance is. [17:52] Far more importantly, I can talk to somebody.I can say,hey you know my boss asked me a question about the status of the consolidation thingthis morning,what do you think about this idea?Or, have you thought about this or is thissimilar to what the other guys doing over there.

That's where the magic happens conversations, bartering, people connect witheach other andrealize that they have the same thing. They are trying to do the same thing.

That’s kind of the vision for the future. Apps should be social.Apps should be mobile. The application should come after. The people data andprocess should come firstand that's a great new story and a greatmagical thing once you figure that out.

So our communities are really vibrant. We have built over 100 different apps in this community, everythingfrom project management to financial management to approval ofdifferent tracks to acquisitions and so for.[18:41] We are building new apps every day. It's a fully agile development environmentand we build and release every four weeks. It is a really cool thing to see and now I can actually manage allof my projects from my cell phone.


[18:55] We have a really interesting comment from Twitter.Kristen Russell, who was the formerCIO for the State of Coloradoand previous guests here on CXOTalk,now she works for Devoy, makes the comment in response Sonny to what you were saying she says,“the government can strike the mother lodeon the power of data and connecting people for useful purpose.”


[19:25]Absolutely, I can’t agree with her more. I thinkwhat's happened and unfortunately for the longest timethat the technology has gotten in the way. Wehave gotten in our own wayby buildingtechnology in different silos, systems that don't talk to other systems, datathat resides in different databasesand people that can talk to each other and the context is lost.

What happens is these fan bases grow around thesesystemsand basically only certain people have access to the right data.Itkind of reinforces this model of us versus them, you don't have access to mything,and you don't know what you're talking about.

Opening all that up in and building that model where you connect peoplefirstand to process around that,immediately things start to happen.[20:09] I'll give another example. We built a quick app and took around four days tobuildin the cloud to manage and track all IT spending.We were having a difficult time understanding what we're spending on. We know how much we spend but we don't know how manydifferent types of products were bought, how many licenses of certain thingsand being a large organization so hard to do that.

We built this app and mandatedthe IT spending that has to go through this app just for tracking purposes. Then we were thinking about it’s just a tracking mechanism, a form gets filled out and get reports of it.Very quickly because we built social first,a lot of the magic started happening in the social theatre around these these funding’s.

So it wasn’t about the $59or$59,000 you’regoing to spend ona product, [20:54] but the conversation around why the heck are you buying this,we already have two of these. Did you know that this product is about to become obsolete and have you looked at this otherthingyet?Allof a sudden, literally within 30 days of releasing this apppeople from these different distributed teams voluntarily saidyou know what, we don't need to buy this $5 million worth of things that theywere going to buy anyway because they didn't know that the nextguy had it or they had the skillsthat they needed,or a contract that theycould access and so forth.

This wasn't a top-down mandate. It was based on,wow, I didn't realize that you are going to go fromthis to that. I didn’t realize that this new product was coming online.Now I know it, it’s going to solve my problem and maybe I don't need to spendthis money.

[21:39] Thatmechanism, this last year GSA hascut a $100 million of IT spend which is 20% of our budgetjust in this last year alone.  Just through some thoughtfulallowing the tools to connect people and this is one example.

It really excites me when I think about how we can use that mechanismto connect communities of interest around citizens, around other agencies andthere's so much more we can do.


[22:08] That's pretty amazing thatquite connecting people you're connecting the dotsand you have a $100 millionof cost avoidancebecause of the fact that people are collaborating.That's amazing and congratulations to you and anybody whoquestions the power collaborationshould I watch this show.Rewind and watchthe last a one minute of your commentary that's incredibly powerful.

We have a question from I assumea CIO thought leader that you know well,Doctor Lisa Johnson, deputy CIO of the White House and Doctor J asks regarding how does the GSAprepare to embrace disruptive technology.


[22:57] That's a fantastic question and Doctor Jgave me a shout out in her CXOTalk so I’m going to give her a shout out as one of the most visionary, mobile, social CIO in the federal government.So right back at you!

That's a great question though. I think one of the thingswe realizedearlyaboutthree years ago, we had a big a-ha moment. That was look,where the world is going and if you look at how modernsmart organizations are deploying product today.If you think about how a B2B deploys product or Zappos or AWeber or Google and Facebook. They don’tholedbig classes of people and get everybody into a big roomand say, okay, now we're going to training on Google version32.9.

[23:45] They integrate small changes throughout their products life cycleso that the end user making them intuitive that's one of the 3 I’s that we have right, so that the end user doesn’t have to go to a massive changeevery time.We realized that when we first started and moved ouremail to the cloud and the social network and so forth.

We realize that we aregoingto be pushing changes outall the time. Whether we roll them outor our cloud service providers roll them out. The bottom line is that our end users can’t be given the fish anymore.They have to betaught how to fish. They have to be taught how to learn andconstantly rather than giving them big classroom trainings every time that therechange because it’s just not going to happen.

[24:31] That old model of training was designed around theERP days.The ERP thing is once every five years, where every five years you get everybody into a bigconference room and say,okay guys, this new version is going to change these 18,000 things let's get started.

Now we can't afford that. Now have to change constantly. Soover the last few years I think we've done a lot to prepare the GSA workforce to learnthemselves but then giving them self-service toolsthat's helped them along the way.

We don't do really any classroom traininganymore at GSA. We do once in a while when we have a big product being launch. Every every week we releasethree different things.That’s my role, three things every week.Those three things could be, did you know a new version of Citrix is about tohit? [25:16] Did you know that Google hangouts are coming? Did you know thatthis new system log in mechanism is going to changeand  here is a one minutevideo thatwill tell you how you log in.

We constantly introduce change in small bite sizeincrementsand that works out pretty well. Then you make it very searchable.You make it online. Anybody who has a question around I don't know how to setup mymobiledevice to do this thing now.They go online to search for it and there's a video orhandy tip tool orwhatever and that usually gets them on their way.If that doesn't work then again we go back to our social network right,so we have acommunity of interest that we call Ask IT.

Ask IT is basically a clearinghouse foranybody with any IT questions go and ask there.[25:59] Youcan ask any randomquestion,have you thought aboutthis product or I saw a demo of this thing orI couldn’t log in today so what the heck's going on. What happens is we have IT people looking at that constantly. We have other users who areengagedand we call them the Jedi Group.They it jumpin and help each other out and say,by the way maybe youmissed this new thing came together, so here's a document that should help you.

That's the new model.You go and you seek the help that you needwhen you need itand there is a community around you to help you. We also have a walk-incentre so instead of the traditional,let me come by your desk side and help you as a localssupport model.  We have a genius bar type mechanism - not using that name I know its proprietary to Apple,[26:46] but a walk-in centre where people walk inask a question and there’s people there to answer them and they can walk them through a demo orhelp them out.

Those are the kind of things that help usget our again our GSA populationready for a change. Now the best thing is that once they are readythen then you can copy and paste that model over and over again as you deploy new technologiesand new solutions. You don't have to reinvent that training wheel every single time.


[27:17] You're basically driving engagementand adoption with constant, intuitive and incremental change.


[27:25] Exactlyand that's the right model.


[27:28] I also read that the 10,000 active users you haveacross your collaboration network is saving the GSA a couple million dollars.It seems like not only that you're focusing on the three I’sof innovation,intuitiveness, andintegration but you also have this power of the communitywith each other and so the genius of the cloud.


[27:49] Yeah exactly. I’ll give two quick examples,so on our projects app that Imentioned is open to all GSA. There was a lot of controversy about it wherethe project managers didn't want their products to be available to everybody. There is always something that goes wrong in a project. You don't want to becalled out in front of the crowd, but it was extremelypowerful.

We made a conscious decision to open every project to everybody at GSA,because look ultimately the product not successfully if it is not serving somebody'sneeds.

So there is a community out there that is passionate about this project goingright.Let's open up to them. Then that community started providing input and saying look, [28:24] before you do this have you realized that we have that other thinggoing on the same month that you’re going to release is code. Do you realize that this requirement that wassent to you two months ago is no longer needed?Have you thought about integrating with that other thing before you do this?It made product manager so much richer as there was a crowdsolution.

We then took that model and we actually did what we call out ideationcampaign. Wecall The Great Ideas Hunt. We have done three of these now,the first one was we pick a topic and do a great ideas hunt.

The first one was to open for30 dayshe said tell us your idea about how to save moneyand you have 30 days to do it. We had 600 peoplesubmit ideas and had 20,000 comments and votes on those ideas. [29:09] Thatexercise led to to identification of 48 ideasdown selected to 40 that saved over $5 million. That was the first focus.

WE have perfected that model so, but as an organization have grown and matured so much that recently our administercarried out another other ideas huntwhere everybody was given one hour.

We had a town hall where the administer said, okay guyswe need your ideas around this topic; how to be more mobile. How to be better connectedas becoming a mobile workforce – Go!

Within one hour we had over 400 ideasand again about 18,000 votes and comments of those ideas. Anincredible story because people not only trust the system,they know that something's going to happenwith those ideas.

[29:56] We are working actively right now to take those ideas to identify projects we can undertake next year,how we can update our infrastructure to be more a mobile friendly and soforth.

That's an example of how the community comes together, saves money,how to improve our products and reinforcespriorities for all of us. We love to hear from our customers our users.We love to and I love to hear your stories on what's workingwell and what’s not working well so we can give better response.


[30:27] We have a few questions and let me toss  a couple of these out and I'll ask you tokeep your answers relatively short so we can get a bunch of these inZachary Jeans asks yourinternal social networks facilitated bypaid community managers or is it all user managed.


[30:52] It’s all usermanaged. There's not a single paid community manager.we started out with thought that it would probably need community managers whosejob it is to do community management.It turned out that in our caseit was probably not the right approach. 

Passionate users managingcommunities that they really care about is a far more powerfulmechanism than managers, who are ultimately there because of their paycheck.To us it has been much more powerful to haveself-governed self-managed communities.


[31:25] Another question is from Lauren Purcell whoseone my favorite and I think Michael’s favoritestaff writer for CIO magazine Lauren’s question is which C suiteexecare you working closest with to execute digital initiatives.


[31:47] That's a great question. I think in the modern world every C suite exec owns the digital initiatives. It’s not just the job of the chief digital officer, although having focused around this topic is important.

I am very happy and literally a few weeks ago, GSA added a brand-new position called the Chief Customer Officer. We have a brilliant chief customer officer who has just started. She reports directly to the administrator, she is extremely smart. I am working very closely with her on our overall digital and customer strategy, which covers everything from social listening to CRM to knowledge-based call centers and the web strategy that goes in front of it. [32:36] Fantastic person and a really powerful position.

Beyond that I work with every CXO and every business line and director to talk about their digital strategy. As you know, we also have a very powerful and an office full of smart people called officers in citizen and innovative and initiative technologies, they work very closely together. They look at these problems from a government wide impact prospective and we look at the expertise to bring that to GSA.


[33:04] Fantastic! Lauren has another question and the question is, how are you using data and analytics to improve IT delivery.


[33:18] That’s a fantastic question. We are not doing as much there as I think it can be done. At the same time I don’t think anybody is and this is a common challenge of our generation if you will. Whoever wins the data battle wins the game. It’s that simple.

We are doing a lot with data in GSA and I think I’m never going to be satisfied where we are. For example, what we are doing now is we are relying on the data very heavily for management decision-making in GSA. So the original CXO questions around budgets personnel, priorities, performance are all data driven at this point.       

We meet with the administrator on a weekly basis, we go through data, we go through metrics, and we discuss where we are and where we need to be. [34:04] That is all driven by tremendous work behind the scenes to elevate and expose the correct data from the correct legacy systems.

On the customer side, the public facing side, and on the mission side we are doing a tremendous amount of work with data. Everything from geospatial to bake data and API’s on integration strategies are playing big roles.

If you are interested, take a look at the strategies that we are building for the modernization of the IAE- SAM system and organisation where there is some tremendous work going on. That is going to be our blueprint on how we build systems moving forward. There is a series of links on Twitter if you are interested, where a lot of fund leadership has already gone in there, it’s API first, and it’s exposing the right data at the right time.

Lastly, when it comes to data we are doing a lot of the area analytics. [34:50] Analytics is not the same as data. We have had data for a long time but the only thing that data is going to generate is the report that sits on somebody’s shelf and useless. Analytics is a brand-new skill set that many organizations don’t have, and we are building that skill set. Therefore analytics is all about massaging and using that to get some really great insights out of it.

I cannot find people fast enough who are really good at that skill, so if you are somebody who is good at that skill and want to make a difference and common work with us, let’s have a dialogue.


[35:24] As we drive to the close here, I want to ask your advice on behalf of CIO’s everywhere who face a particular challenge. I think it’s very common that an innovative CIO such as yourself will have really good ideas and want to drive certain types of changes across the organization, including process change and potentially hiring and cultural changes. When you start making these disruptive transformations these are the impacts.

However, in many cases especially for large organizations, [36:10] the organization is not equipped to absorb the changes that are implied by these disruptive efforts. How do you convince an organisation, number one, that it should undertake this type of initiative, and then gotten them on board how do you actually implement it when people working in the trenches who come from a different time and they don’t have the capability or skill sets to absorbent this transformation, so what do you do if you are a CIO.

Sonny:  [36:48] That’s a great question and unfortunately I don’t think there is any silver bullet answer to that except there are a few things that I believe that are important. First of all, I’m not a believer in this notion that a lot of people casually talk about, well you know, these new skill sets are new and those old skill sets are no longer needed so we have a problem. In fact I think we have an opportunity.

The good news is the new skill sets and much more readily learnable than the old skill sets were. So imagine in teaching a lamp developer in how to do kicks coding in the mainframe, that’s a much harder problem than teaching somebody from those job applications how to do lamp stack coding, [37:34] or how to do social development or that kind of thing.

So I think the new skill sets, especially the higher level languages in the platforms that we have access to now, even I can code which is saying a lot. If we can have this right vision in front of us we have the human talent and we can do some cool things and learn together.

The second thing is I think organizations change all the time, whether they realise it or not. They do, but they just do it in an unstructured way. They do this based on your policies coming together and where new people have new ideas, leadership changes, and elections happen. Things change in organizations all the time. We don’t recognise this and because we don’t manage it properly it happens in a very brutal way, that it breaks easily and people don’t come along and so forth, [38:29] so some skill there is important.

I’m not a change everything together type of a person and I think I have a great quote which I have from Calvin and Hobbes, ‘day by day nothing changes but pretty soon everything is different.’ I love that quote because that’s exactly how life works.

That’s how IT management should be treated to. We should think about making incremental improvements as long as we know that we are walking in the right direction, every step may not seem like too much but let’s just keep taking one step at a time.

If you can take a big problem and chunk it out, so that each chunk is manageable, [39:16] one step that is removed and one step that is optimized, one thing that was not easy but now it’s easier. Pretty soon, you will be walking in the direction where things get easier and easier and you go over the tipping point of change where you say, look I think at this point it is fair to say that that all process is no longer applicable. We have shown or seen how it is getting in the way. So let’s do something big.

Building up to that is important, you cannot go into the conversation saying, look I have this fantastic idea, if you only changed everything things would be so much better.


[39:50] Basically what you are saying innovate, do it step-by-step and as you described what Google does, small steps, continuously over time eventually yield a large thing.


[40:02] Showing the measure of value along the way and that is the biggest thing, because you cannot just say change for change’s sake and keep changing and ultimately thinking better.

Every step of the way you need to know what the outcome will be and measure the outcome and then show the value and say look, we did this, we implemented this little app. We streamlined this process and allowed for this new tool, and people are 30% happier and more effective and the processes are taking a short time. You have to measure those results along the way, to build the cross that you need and then use that political capital to do the big thing. So you build up a lot of political capital through a lot of small wins, and then you spend it once in a while on something big.

[40:46] That is kind of my strategy and it works fairly well and obviously, all of that is based on constant coalition building with your peers and business line leaders.


[40:58] We have Robert Scoble last week and when you have a chance to talk to Robert very quickly you find yourself talking about technology and innovation that perhaps could be five or 10 years in the future.

I want to learn more of the technologies that you hear about or see, and I suspect you see because certainly with your budget and your influence I’m sure there are start-ups and establish companies showing you innovation all of the time.

We know that there are wearable’s are faith things that are on your radar that you may not find practical use today, but you know that it is going to be something that is big down the future.


[41:43] Yeah, there are two or three things. I think it is not always that technology is the question. I think it is a paradigms question. Some of the paradigms are changing, which are even more exciting than technology. The paradigms are changing which is the democracy of everything.

Major industries are getting disruptive through a democratization of everything. So if you look at the model of AWeber versus a taxicab industry or if you look at the model of Airbnb versus the hotel industry, these are not examples of just technology, it is a matter of end users who have a product and end users who need a product or service, connecting with each other using technology and doing cool things. [42:31] That is the model that we will see more and more.

Therefore in the industry we will see a lot of destruction, Producers and consumers of products and services directly connecting with each other and doing cool things so that’s one thing.

The other thing is the boundary of enterprise and personal is going to diminish and and we will move more and more as we go forward. You will see this manifesting through devices, with defies programs and telework or tele-type things, but I think it goes beyond that.

I think if we look 10 years down, a world where it happens in communities which include government people, private sector people, and vendor people, partner people - all coming together and getting around a common topic and getting problems solved, it’s a much more viable model rather than we are governmenting your industry and we’ll stay away from each other.

[43:18] How exactly we get there I don’t know, and technology is going to be a huge enabler in that environment.

As far as I’m concerned there is promise in variables, big data, and I think smarter computing is going to take over. I just had a recent experience to drive around in the Google self-driving car and that is cool. But if you just look at it thinking this is really cool, but that got me thinking that driving is one of those things that has always been considered as a higher brain function. People drive because it is so complex.

Now, if a robot can drive, the safe, and follow the laws and undertaking of this complex problem, what other complex problems can computers and algorithms replace. [44:03] That is going to be an interesting area.

 For instance, can we do building maintenance where buildings are smart enough to self-diagnose and tell us where problems are. Yes, I think that’s going to happen and is going to happen fast.

Can we do self-diagnosis on our 2000 fleet cars – yes, that’s going to happen and that’s going to happen and soon. That is the kind of thing where instead of a officer making complex determination about market research and alternative mechanisms of a procurement and different clauses and compliance, can a computer algorithm do all of that work, with the officer doing higher and more important strategic things. That is where I think technology is going to go in the next 10 years, so it’s going to be[44:49] so much smarter and not just more accessible through wearable’s and whatnot.


[44:53] Smart tech. Well it’s just about that time.


[44:58] You know what I’m laughing about, I am laughing about we are 45 minutes into the interview and I think Michael and I have 30 more questions to go. I couldn’t type fast enough, I could tweet fast enough in terms of the wisdom that you were sharing with us, so amazing. Absolutely amazing.


[45:20] So it means that we need you to come back.


[45:22] Yeah for sure.


[45:3] Absolutely that will be my pleasure. Thank you so much and it will be my pleasure and I’ll be glad to do it.


[45:28] How about we figure out a venue and we do a panel just like CXOTalk just like this with you, David Bray the CIO of the FCC and our friend, Doctor J, the deputy CIO of the White House.


[45:55] That sounds fantastic and I can’t wait for making that happen and I look forward to that.


[45:59]We did this event with the two of them, so we had Doctor J, Doctor Bray, and of course Vala stood in as Dr dre!


[46:17] I’m very encouraged with the leadership and with the feds. The young feds who are joining the government for the first time. If you read up on the 18 up programme, and learn more about what these guys are doing. They are some of the smartest people who are trying to solve some of the hardest challenges in government. I’m so encouraged to see that, because I really want the next generation to think that it’s not only a sense of duty and honor, but it’s cool to work for government again.

We have some of the coolest problems that we need to solve, we have some of the biggest problems and for the first time looking at the entire spectrum of Cloud technology, mobile, social justice solve some of these problems and we really need your help. [47:09] Although at the same time I’m very encouraged about people like Doctor J, Doctor Bray and many of the other smart CIO’s, deputy CIO’s that are trying to get ahead of some of these very complex problems.Very encouraged.


[47:21] Next week on July 23 in DC is the next gen government leadership awards.


[47:28] That’s right, I’m looking forward to being there with our young passionate smart team members, Vanessa Ross, she is one of the finalists and I’m going to be there rooting for her and I just can’t wait.


[47:43] Well this has been a wonderful show. We have been talking with Sonny Hashmi, who is the CIO of the General services Administration, Sonny, thank you so much for joining us today.


[47:55] Thank you Michael, thank you Vala it’s been a pleasure.. I’ll see you guys soon, thank you. Take care.


[48:01] Vala, as always it’s a delight to see you. That’s do a remote fist bump where everybody can see it. There you go. That’s the last time. Everybody, thank you so much for joining us. Next week we are joined by two data scientists so we are going to have dinner I say it, a nerd show. We are going to talk about data and marketing.

Thank you everybody, have a great weekend. We’ll see you next time bye bye.

Published Date: Jul 18, 2014

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 69