In a recent post, ModernGov spoke with Chris Steel, chief solutions architect at Software AG Government Solutions, about how visibility into a government agency’s IT components and projects can help with IT alignment projects, systems, and hardware to their business mission.
As Steel shared with us, mandates, such as PortfolioStat, require federal agencies to consolidate IT resources to become more efficient and cut costs. He talked about how IT has taken on a “life of its own” in many agencies and outlined the real, near-term benefits an agency can realize from visibility into and understanding of IT systems.
In this post, Steel shares three initial steps an agency should take to create greater alignment between their assets and federal mandates:
1. Opening communications and understanding between agency stakeholders: The first step, as I mentioned previously, is ensuring that IT understands the business goals and the business mission of the agency. IT leaders must also have insight into and understanding of how that mission is evolving. Keeping an open line of communications between IT management and agency management ensures that everyone is on the same page as to where the agency is at today and where that mission is going in the next 2-5 years. Communication is also essential to ensuring that IT goals, projections, and projects are in alignment with agency goals, projections, and projects.
2. Understanding the IT assets and their interdependencies: Finding a vendor who can give your IT department visibility into assets that are currently available within the agency is an important foundational step toward alignment. An agency needs to know: ‘What are my IT assets? What are my different projects, programs, etc.? Do I have a complete inventory of not only hardware, but also overall project/program status? What projects aren’t meeting IT and/or business goals? What is falling behind and how does that impact the overall business mission?’ Knowing the answers to these questions will help the agency align IT resources effectively and efficiently. For instance, if an agency realizes it has two redundant IT services. If they don’t fully understand what those entail and how the components on them interact with other areas of IT, how they support the business, etc., and shuts one of them down, they may compromise an important segment of the mission. What can happen is they have not only shut down Service A, but also have impacted Service C in some other silo that nobody understood. Utilizing a vendor that allows an agency to create ‘What if?’ scenarios, such as ‘What if I shut down this system? What are all of the different services that are going to be impacted?’ allows the agency visibility into the chain of dependencies and gives them the opportunity to make better decisions.
3. Enabling scenario planning and reporting: With greater communication between stakeholders and greater visibility into IT assets and what they do, an agency can use that information for better planning and analysis. With the right tools, an agency can input the planned scenario into the tool, and it will show all the dependencies and impacts. It will also generate a business plan that includes a template-driven plan describing in detail how the high-level mission is affected, what all the different pieces of that are, and what the ROI would be. An agency could answer the What if? With certainty: if I shut down System A, it will tally all the different dependencies that are eliminated, show the ROI from eliminated hardware, maintenance, licensing, and other resources required to keep those up and operational. Knowing this, an agency can weigh that cost savings against any potential impact from loss of assets on a system that is being shut down. For example, if an agency is looking at data center consolidation, it can create different consolidation scenarios, see the overall cost, a projected timeline, and the number of people involved. This allows for much more precise, comprehensive planning. When you understand interdependencies, you can tackle things like consolidation one step at a time showing incremental progress. You can take that back to senior management and justify the efforts by showing current and projected cost savings as well as how the consolidation will help the agency better achieve its mission.
The bottom line, according to Steel, is to implement a tool that will help mitigate internal and external risks by providing visibility and allowing the IT department to show incremental progress to senior management. Once they have realized success in an area of the agency, they can tackle bigger projects and consolidate more without creating greater misalignment or compromising the agency mission.