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The Future of IT Planning in the Public Sector

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In a previous post, we discussed past efforts by government officials to crack down on the efficiency of IT projects. IT Dashboards and TechStat had some level of success but left plenty of room for improvement. This post describes recent IT review process efforts and some thoughts on the future of these projects.

PortfolioStat was initiated in March 2012 as a part of a new review process for IT portfolios to identify opportunities to consolidate IT services and increase the use of shared-service delivery models. This initiative is a part of a larger desire for the federal government to incorporate lessons learned from failed or poorly planned IT initiatives. Instead of maintaining the same traditional models where assets are purchased for individual projects, the federal government hopes to help agencies grow their portfolios to deliver IT services while optimizing their assets for agency-wide consumption.

PortfolioStat is an evidence-based review of an agency’s IT portfolio with specific attention to: commodity IT investment, potential duplications, investment alignment to agency mission and business functions, and other IT considerations. For FYs 2013-2015, the OMB has projected more than $2.5 billion in possible spending reductions.

On an annual basis, 26 federal agencies’ Chief Operating Officers (COO) are required to lead an agency-wide, face-to-face IT portfolio review. It is incumbent upon the CIOs, CFO, and CAO to provide necessary data and analysis, attend the PortfolioStat sessions, and support decisions made during the process. Each agency must complete the following activities:

Despite the mandate, the GAO (GAO-14-65) reported in 2013 that the 26 federal agencies required to participate in PortfolioStat had not fully complied with the above requirements. In fact, only 1 of the 26 agencies addressed all the requirements.

Report of 26 Agencies Completion of PortfolioStat Requirements



Designate Lead

High-Level IT Survey

IT Investment Baseline

Hold PortfolioStat Session

Submit Final Plan to Consolidate

Migrate at least Two Duplications

Submit Lesson Learned

26

26

14

4

4

13

26

Source: GAO Report GAO-14-65

The early implementation information on PortfolioStat reflects several weaknesses in the IT community such as accountability, authority, public reporting information, and internal decision-making. For instance, six agencies reported limitations in their CIOs authority to review and approve the entire portfolio while 12 agencies reported challenges with the completeness and process of their reported IT investment baseline data. Issues such as the data required by PortfolioStat are not data they typically capture at the level of detail requested by OMB, service contracts that do not offer specifics on commodity IT inventory, and OMB timelines that didn’t allow for information verification. Agencies did not properly validate information for completeness and accuracy, which negates the efforts of transparency and better IT management. Despite the opportunities projected, improvements through PortfolioStat are still in the early stages and require much more internal work before PortfolioStat can be of use to agencies.

These tools provide evidence that government officials have acknowledged the problem of inefficient IT projects and want to fix it. However, leaders must do more to improve implementation, make data collection easier, more accurate, and complete. Policy makers should focus on improving the objectivity of evaluations and reporting. Without a renewed effort, there will remain incongruous metrics between projects, publications of opaque data, and projects continuing to run poorly. The federal government must continue to work at developing their IT metrics so they can have compliance and improved outcomes.

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