In December 2010, I joined the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as an early member of its technology team. I spent the second half of my three years at the CFPB as the Deputy CIO and Acting CIO. Our team earned lots of praise for its web products (and will continue to do so, I’m sure). Now that I’ve left, I’d like to share some lessons I learned.

The CFPB is new. You might therefore discount the CFPB’s online success as a moment-in-time achievement whose lessons will not help any agency that is saddled with legacy culture, legacy systems, and the GS pay scale (the CFPB pays higher salaries than most agencies). Having worked in such agencies, I understand the belief that a fresh start creates a freeway to success. I won’t lie: the lack of legacy culture was invaluable. (As for legacy systems, we have more of those than you might think.) But instead of seeing the CFPB’s clean slate as an experiment that nobody can learn from, I see it as a testbed for ideas that, while technically achievable for any agency, are avoided by any agency unwilling to be the first to do so. The CFPB has dipped the federal government’s foot into several new pools. …


Matthew Burton

Thoughts about good government, civic responsibility, and national security.

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