Does TBM Spell Better FITARA Grades?

It’s an old axiom: “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” And nowhere is that axiom truer these days than with Federal IT investments. Federal executives need to better understand, manage, and show value from money spent on IT resources.

To that end, the Trump administration is focusing on improving the quality of IT spending data that will increase the government’s ability to make data-driven decisions and analyze tradeoffs among cost, quality, and value. One of the ways to do that is push for adoption of the Technology Business Management (TBM) framework government-wide, according to the President’s FY19 budget request.

The TBM framework is an industry best practice and open data standard widely leveraged by private and some public sector organizations. “The TBM framework is a powerful tool that can enhance Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) implementation by helping agency CIOs better understand, manage, and demonstrate value from the money spent on IT resources,” the budget request states.

“Information technology underlies everything that the government does,” said Jonathan Kraden, acting deputy associate administrator with the Office of Government-wide Policy, Office of Information Integrity and Access, within the General Services Administration. “But most Federal agencies and executives do not have the visibility [into IT spending] that they would like.” He noted that if asked, many Federal managers couldn’t answer the question, “Is your agency spending enough on IT, too much, or just the right amount?”

GSA’s Office of Government-wide Policy (OGP) is working with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and various chief executive councils to help coordinate and facilitate implementation of TBM across agencies.

TBM addresses the needs of several stakeholders, including CIOs, IT managers, CFOs, IT finance professionals, application development teams, and business managers. One of the challenges OGP faces is conveying that message to each stakeholder because an IT manager would be looking for different information than a finance manager.

“Whether you are in IT, finance, or the business unit, TBM can help the IT folks have better conversations with business units, informed by facts,” Kraden said. “It ensures that everyone, all the stakeholders, are speaking a similar language.”

“Our goal with TBM is to make sure that agencies are not just reporting in TBM terms, that they are actually implementing [and embracing] the framework,” Kraden said.

Agency managers have to understand that there are no quick fixes. TBM is a journey in which there will be some wins along the way. The value proposition for managers is getting a better understanding of their data and a better conversation going between the CFO and CIO communities. So, implementation is more than reporting, it is about embracing what the framework means for their agency.

Agencies can get started with TBM efforts with the data they have. They don’t have to wait to have 100 percent clean data. “You can’t wait to achieve perfection before you start,” Kraden said. There are agencies that have started with spreadsheets, mapping their data to TBM cost pools, Kraden noted.

In FY 2019, the Trump administration will continue driving Federal government-wide adoption of the TBM framework and release implementation guidance, via OMB, to agencies.

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