MeriTalk - Where America Talks Government
Steve O'Keeffe

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Posted: 6/11/2010 - 11 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]


The Ice House on Pennsylvania Avenue is asking agencies to cut budgets by at least 5 percent. Agencies are looking at pay freezes. Summer or not, right now it's cold in D.C. And, look around the globe - little evidence of global warming anywhere. The Germans just launched an $80 billion fiscal frost that will cut 15,000 civil servants. Even the balmy Greeks are catching the chill.

So, what does this mean for Federal IT and OMB? Well, as we enter the "Kundra Tundra" the hunt for waste, new efficiency, and savings has gotta get hotta. To be sure, cloud - it wouldn't be a Cup of IT without some mention of that word - and data center consolidation promise significant savings. But, today, the hard number savings associated with these programs are, well, somewhat nebulous ... And, of course, the impact of these new IT approaches is limited to delivering savings within the $78.44 billion 2010 IT budget.

But, here's a crazy idea - what if agencies could see the 5 percent savings ante and raise the bet to 30 percent savings? And, what if IT could lead the way for delivering savings not just against IT budgets, but against the total Federal contracts budget - $527.5 billion in FY 2008?

A new MeriTalk study, "Federal Procurement Reform: Change Takes More Than Words," provides new insight on the Federal management opportunity. The study asserts that the Federal government could save some $158 billion by implementing management practices that are already mandated, but not practiced.

Forty-five percent of Federal procurement pros surveyed for the study gave their agency a "C" grade or lower for process maturity - only 12 percent give their agency an "A" grade. To be sure, managing large, multi-year government programs is complex. Things often change midstream. It stands to reason that a proven management approach is critical to success. Against this backdrop, just 17 percent of Federal procurement pros said that their agencies have implemented and consistently use Earned Value Management (EVM). Just 14 percent said that their agencies have implemented and consistently use Capital Planning and Investment Control (CPIC). And, you can't implement what you don't know - 56 percent assert that they lack program management training.

And, while shocking, the study results are nothing new. Just last October, GAO released a study on agencies' management performance focused on 16 IT programs funded in total at $1 billion. GAO found more than $2 billion in cost overruns and significant schedule slips and slides. The report points to agencies' failure to implement EVM as a systemic cause for management failure.

And, GAO is paired with a powerful partner in shining a light on Feds' program management challenges. Senator Thomas Carper (D-Del.) introduced S.920, the IT Investment Oversight Enhancement and Waste Prevention Act in April of last year. The bill passed in the Senate last month and awaits a vote in the House. This pending legislation focuses on using EVM to provide more structure, accountability, and transparency for Uncle Sam's IT spend. I'd recommend that you take a closer look and do everything you can to support this good-sense and good-governance legislation.

This is not about freezing out Federal program managers - in fact, quite the opposite. The Federal Procurement Reform study reveals that 55 percent of Federal procurement professionals lack EVM training. We need to provide more support and training for overworked Federal program managers. According to Steve Kelman and Steve Schooner, the Federal acquisition workforce's workload has increased by 140 percent in the past decade.

Let's face it, program management, EVM, and CPIC aren't the sexiest concepts in IT and government management today. However, the flash and sizzle of open government, dashboards, even the finances for the cloud transition, all depend on a solid data foundation - and that's program management. The challenge today - GIGO. If it's garbage into the decision-making process, then it's garbage out. To really change our government's performance, we need to focus on the fundamentals - that's visibility, management, and measurement. This is not just about saving money, it's also about better government - and investing in program management tools and training pays dividends on all fronts. To be clear, government will need to invest to realize these savings - but before you ask, that investment is significantly less than $158 billion...

I'll leave you with a cool concept for the future of Federal IT and management. Why should OMB and the Hill need to ask CIOs for data on their agencies' programs? Why shouldn't Vivek Kundra tap straight into their standardized, EVM- and CPIC-based systems to roll up the current state of play across the Federal government? And, by moving aggressively on better management, IT can set an example for the whole government. Complete transparency and accountability, the ability to quickly see when programs start to slide on black ice, as well as data normalization to enable trend mapping and cross-pollination of successes. Wouldn't that combination warm the heart of each and every tax payer?