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By: Vid Desai, Chief Information Officer and Jessica N. Berrellez, Executive Officer

Portrait of Vid Desai, FDA's Chief Technology Officer, wearing a dark suit, dark tie, white shirt, glasses, and smiling while looking at the camera
Vid Desai

Digital transformation is a continuous journey that touches every part of an organization. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration established the Office of Digital Transformation (ODT) in September 2021 and elevated the Chief Information Officer (CIO) reporting structure to the FDA Commissioner. The FDA is implementing a technology, data, cybersecurity, and business process modernization strategy to advance our public health mission – known as our FDA Modernization Framework. ODT is increasingly partnering with centers across the agency to use technology and data for better business outcomes. While technology was previously a secondary function, it is now a driver of operational effectiveness and workforce performance. It is not enough to build or buy the latest tools and technologies – you must have the management infrastructure and people to implement, secure, and maintain them to deliver business value in a fast-changing environment.

The increased shift to virtual work during the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the value of a shared, cross-agency approach to IT- with IT leadership more critical than ever in enabling the continuity of operations. It also underscored the importance of ODT’s leadership competencies and strategic vision for leading technology modernization. As we progress, the FDA must have strong, adaptive leaders at the helm of ODT and center IT programs. Our organization must also have a pipeline of diverse future technology leaders, operating in a continuous learning mindset to quickly adapt to ever-increasing demand and complexity.

This month we introduced the technology-focused Leadership Modernization Action Plan (LMAP), the next milestone in the FDA’s enterprise transformation journey. The LMAP lays out our plans to strengthen our technology leadership capabilities to effectively drive change at the business, technology, data, and cybersecurity levels. The LMAP is the final piece of the agency’s technology Modernization Frameworks that are in action today and places people, and technology leaders, at the forefront of these efforts. This investment in developing our mission-driven staff will enable us to realize our bold transformation vision successfully.

The three elements of the LMAP are to:

  1. Create an environment where business and IT programs are aligned and collaborate to achieve business priorities and leverage IT opportunities to enhance outcomes.
  2. Develop and operationalize an IT strategy that is reflective of business needs.
  3. Develop a pipeline of new technology leaders who can maintain strategic continuity through leadership and organizational change.
Jessica N. Berrellez, Executive Officer, 900x900
Jessica N. Berrellez

Through modernization we aim to cultivate the FDA’s technology leadership ability to support our digital transformation goals. ODT’s increased focus on people, leadership, and organizational culture in the context of modernization efforts will foster an environment that attracts and retains top talent. We will also work to cultivate technology leaders and change agents at every level of the organization. ODT will start with small pilots to test innovative technology talent and leadership development strategies. The LMAP highlights current or upcoming pilots focused on technology change leadership training, technology workforce upskilling, and enhancing ODT’s hiring and compensation strategy. 

In today’s digital world, all business activities depend on IT services. Engaged IT leaders can understand business operations from a unique vantage point and aligning IT strategy with business objectives ensures that our limited IT resources focus on the right organizational priorities. Investing in leadership as a critical component of ODT’s technology and business transformation will better prepare us to act as strategic partners in tackling the agency’s most complex challenges. With the LMAP, ODT has a well-grounded framework to drive the modernization that will help advance the FDA’s public health mission.