Bringing Government IT Modernization and Innovation to the Forefront

Aligning IT Tools for Cost Reductions and Optimal Performance: A Prescription for the Federal Government

shutterstock_235720489One of the greatest obstacles to efficient operations for any organization is the presence of duplicative processes.  Often times, different groups within an organization purchase IT tools and solutions to meet their specific goals and objectives, without realizing that other groups might already be using the same, or similar tools, or benefit from using them.  Without organization-wide intelligence, duplicative tools and processes can silo information, increase both CapEx and OpEx, and create myriad burdens on the end users.

Across one government agency, the problems created by duplication are troubling enough, but when magnified across the entire federal government, with hundreds of agencies and the many departments that reside within them, and you can see how duplication could become a burdensome problem.

ModernGov recently talked with Chris Borneman, vice president for Software AG Government Solutions, about the push for IT alignment in the federal government.

ModernGov: How did this disjointed and duplicative IT situation come about and why is it such a problem for government agencies? 
Chris Borneman: The federal government has traditionally had stove-piped systems and lacked visibility into what was already built relative to new demand requests. Changing leadership and assignments exacerbate the lack of visibility for IT leaders coming into new assignments. Without visibility and governance, IT leaders have been forced to build new solutions, which are, oftentimes, duplicative solutions.  Historically, agencies have tended to build proprietary solutions to meet specific program requirements, security requirements, or because of an added lack of visibility to what may be available commercially.  This has been a huge problem for government agencies as leadership seeks to understand where IT investments are going, what is the spend alignment to mission objectives, and what opportunities are there to recapture some of that spend.

ModernGov: What are some of the drivers to pursue alignment? 
CB: There are existing policies, such as PortfolioStat, that are already pushing agencies today to look at their overall IT portfolio for duplication and to assist in capital planning aligned with strategic goals.  The Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI) seeks to reduce the rapid growth of data center costs through consolidation while improving security posture.  To best manage risk and ensure the best payback from the transition investment, agencies should utilize portfolio planning and alignment to understand what services can move, and which missions might be impacted during the transition to minimize risk.  Additional drivers include the overall reduction of IT spend, encouraging agencies to make sure their IT investments are backed with strategic alignment to mission goals, while addressing the increased threat of cyber security through failure to maintain older or out of support software and hardware.

ModernGov: What should agencies prioritize in pursuit of alignment?
CB: First, to become a trusted partner to the agency, IT must understand and align to the agency mission, and projects, assets, and people should be defined in terms of how they contribute to agency mission objectives.  This not only improves communication across groups when everything can relate to the same goals shared by an agency, using the same vernacular, but it also creates common reference points and encourages meaningful dialog between IT and agency stakeholders. Poorly funded or maintained legacy systems introduce additional risks to operations for cyber security, which can be translated into risks to mission capabilities.  By aligning IT to the mission, trust and confidence improves as all groups find common ground and measurements for success, and mission owners recognize that IT understands the agency mission.

Following that, an agency must take the following steps:

  1. Decide that IT alignment is a priority by educating mission and IT leaders about the critical nature it takes in helping to meeting everyone’s goals.  All parties should agree to what successful IT alignment will look like and result in, as well as identify a prioritized list of mission capability areas that would benefit the most first.
  2. Stakeholders should agree on an enabling technology or set of technologies that will allow the agency to quickly capture its “as-is” state in detail and ensure the tool is one that focuses on the overall IT portfolio management so that it meets the needs of both IT and the mission stakeholders.
  3. Identify initial mission capabilities to capture and map the organization, capabilities, functions, applications, and components to those capabilities.  Invest in training with your initial deployment team and enlist the assistance of your tool provider or a third party to kick off your first deployment of the tool, methodologies, and data collection.
  4. Utilize your newly captured IT portfolio to capture demand changes and project requests.  Apply the tool as part of your strategic planning and prioritization for changes within the initial mission capability areas.
  5. Continue on the IT alignment journey to identify the next set of areas that should go through the process of capture and refinement.  Using this repeatable approach through a series of sprints delivers value back to the agency faster, demonstrates the success of the process, and allows for lessons learned and continuous improvement.

In our next post, Borneman will share his take on the benefits that an agency will realize through IT alignment and give three tips for evaluating a vendor that is offering an alignment tool.


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