Meet America's first CIO

Vivek Kundra's track record indicates a discipline for project ROI and a passion for making cool technologies useful

For Kundra, the stock market approach is really just a metaphor for a technique driven by ongoing analytics. "You can use a different metaphor if that works better in your industry," he says. But essential to success is a "ruthless discipline" in your data collection, analysis, and consequent management decisions.

Freeing up resources for meaningful innovation

Kundra was not focused solely on weeding out bad "stocks." He also used this approach to free up capital for innovative bets. For example, he's initiated a project that combines YouTube with Wikipedia to increase government's accountability to citizens. All requests for proposals (RFPs) for city contracts are posted on a Web site in a wiki, with all bids being available as PDF attachments. Attendee lists from public hearings are scanned and posted as well, as are videos of hearings and even RFP presentations. Also posted or linked are any district communications with the potential vendors on the RFPs. If this effort succeeds, "no one can say that there are deals done behind closed doors," he says.

"It's tough in tight budgets to find the innovative path," Kundra notes, which is why he was so focused on gaining stock market-like efficiencies in weeding out wasteful projects and identifying strong ones. Thanks to the savings already established from this approach, he was able to set up an R&D lab to test new ideas.

The two areas of Kundra's fancy are new-generation mobile devices -- "I believe the  iPhone is the future for integrated voice, data and video" -- and Web 2.0 technologies. Thus the experiments using wikis and YouTube.

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