F-I-T-A-R-A, the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act is set to be the answer to government IT agility. Designed to give agency CIOs more authority in the procurement process, FITARA has the potential to be a true game changer in the government IT market.
There is no doubt that CIOs face considerable challenges in their individual and collective efforts to implement new hardware, software and services, especially when they must rely on decades-old procurement processes. Unfortunately, there are more than a few examples where drawn out acquisition cycles have resulted in contracts that offer agencies outdated technologies or are available too late to support expired mission requirements.
In a recent Washington, DC briefing, Gartner’s Vice President of Public Sector Research, Jerry Mechling, addressed these concerns as “FITARA–Why Now and What Difference Does it Make?” According to Mechling, there are” two major—and ongoing—problems” across Federal IT programs: 1) sub-agencies resist adoption of broader, enterprise-wide alternatives for fear of losing control and capabilities, and 2) too many large-scale IT programs continue to fail. He attributes these factors to a systemic lack of understanding about how to incorporate agility and scale in Federal enterprise IT initiatives. He added that future technology implementation programs need to be much more consistent and designed to be flexible.
Mechling summarized a number of “significant” roles and “minimum requirements” that agency CIOs are expected to fulfill once FITARA becomes mandatory for executive agency implementation, including:
• Budgeting and resource monitoring for all agency IT
• Broad acquisition and IT project oversight duties
• Review and approval of selected bureau/sub-agency staff responsible for IT implementation
Delivering pivotal stakeholder advice, Mechling recommended that CIOs “work with the agency head early to assess risk and reward,” and he suggested agency heads ensure their CIO and CFO teams collaborate to develop practical and mutually-agreed timelines, budgets, and implementation plans that provide sufficient flexibility to resolve conflicts as they arise.
A recent Federal Times article cited FITARA as “the most significant federal IT reform in the last two decades.” Intended to enable more deliberate, scalable, and flexible technology procurement, since it became law in late 2014, FITARA has had a bumpy introduction into Federal agency implementation. As most would expect with legislation of its scope and complexity, FITARA has the potential to introduce confusion within the agency CIO corps and across their agencies.
How will FITARA impact current agency procurement and IT oversight? What will this new policy mean for daily operations across large agencies and their sub-agency components? This kind of confusion not only fosters genuine misunderstanding about FITARA mandates, but also demands guidelines for application in practice to ensure agencies seize the opportunity to maximize its intended benefits.
Keeping up with the pace of technology and government IT innovation is challenging. New and so-called “disruptive” technologies continue to emerge and impact agency opportunities and potential capabilities. In response, change agents and innovators simultaneously seek legislation and initiatives, similar to FITARA that will enable quicker and more efficient adoption of innovative technologies.
On June 10th, the U.S. Office of Management issued its final guidance on FITARA implementation. Only time will tell how well agencies will leverage this IT policy to enable more effective technology acquisition and deployment in support of essential missions and services.
To learn more about strategies for introducing innovative IT to support agency modernization efforts, click here.