The Business of Government Hour

 

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The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The executives discuss their careers and the management challenges facing their organizations. Past government executives include Administrators, Chief Financial Officers, Chief Information Officers, Chief Operating Officers, Commissioners, Controllers, Directors, and Undersecretaries.

The interviews

Join the IBM Center for a weekly conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business.

Dr. Paul Tibbits interview

Friday, December 31st, 2004 - 20:00
Phrase: 
"The Business Management Modernization Program will make our practices and processes efficient to be as flexible in our business practices as our combat forces are in their warfighting mission."
Radio show date: 
Sat, 01/01/2005
Guest: 
Intro text: 
Innovation; Technology and E-Government; Leadership; Strategic Thinking...

Innovation; Technology and E-Government; Leadership; Strategic Thinking

Complete transcript: 

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Arlington, Virginia

MR. LAWRENCE: Good morning, and welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, partner in charge of the IBM Center for the Business of Government. We created the Center in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. You can find out more about the Center by visiting us on the Web at businessofgovernment.org.

The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. Our special guest this morning is Dr. Paul Tibbits, director, Business Management Modernization Program for the Department of Defense.

Good morning, Paul.

DR. TIBBITS: Good morning, Paul. Good morning, Chuck.

MR. LAWRENCE: And joining us in our conversation also from IBM is Chuck Prow.

Good morning, Chuck.

MR. PROW: Good morning, Paul. Good morning, Dr. Tibbits.

MR. LAWRENCE: Well, let's start by finding out more about the Business Management Modernization Program, or BMMP, as it's called. Can you give us a history about it; how it started; what were the challenges?

DR. TIBBITS: Sure. The Business Management Modernization Program actually started out as the Department's initiative to respond to certain management deficiencies, particularly in financial management practices in the Department. These were recognized in the Freedman Report, in addition to longstanding GAO reports on the Department.

In 2001, the Secretary of Defense determined that he was going to undertake to address these in a formal manner, in a very comprehensive way across the entire Department, and initiated what was then the Financial Management and Modernization Program. Because of the connections throughout the Department and the dependency of financial management practices on actually the way we do our daily business of ordering parts and providing supplies to the fighting forces and so forth, this was expanded in scope to become the Business Management Modernization Program, which is what it is known as today.

The purpose of that is to eliminate the duplications of systems across the Department; rationalize our business processes; look end to end to make sure we're actually accomplishing what it is the business process is intended to accomplish, and in the process, support our fighting forces and the President's management agenda.

MR. LAWRENCE: That's a big bite. How would you characterize the impact it has on supporting the warfighter?

DR. TIBBITS: Well, the BMMP is intended to make our practices and processes as efficient as they possibly can be so that we can actually keep up with what the warfighters need. We want to become, on the business side of the Department, the zero latency, just-in-time organization so that we can be as flexible in our business practices as our combat forces are in their warfighting mission. So when they need something, they get it. It's a just-in-time delivery notion that we intend to implement throughout the Department.

MR. LAWRENCE: Could you give us a scope of your team, sort of how large this is, and the types of skills that people have that are involved?

DR. TIBBITS: Sure. We are the program office. The office I run is the program office for the Business Management Modernization Program. Within that office, we have approximately 55 government employees. The skill set there ranges from management of information technology systems, change management, some finance and accounting background in some instances, to subject matter experts on architecture itself, how to devise architectures, how to develop them, how to use the tools to develop architecture. Part of what we do is to oversee information systems. Certain of our employees have information technology backgrounds and are very familiar with management information systems.

MR. PROW: Paul, what are your responsibilities as the director of BMMP?

DR. TIBBITS: I guess first and foremost, it's to press forward with the transformation agenda of the Department. BMMP is all about business transformation, and it's our objective to move the Department forward to achieve those objectives.

We have taken an incremental approach, with the first being achieving the unqualified audit opinion on the consolidated financial statements for the Department of Defense, and at the same time, total personnel visibility throughout the Department. More than anything else, my job becomes orchestrating a lot of moving parts to keep everybody focused on those objectives and keeping them moving towards those objectives on a defined schedule. And then I guess you could say, in addition to that, is to keep our oversight organizations -- the Congress, the General Accounting Office -- appraised of our progress to make sure they understand the strengths and weaknesses of our approach, and whether we are or not making satisfactory progress in their view.

MR. PROW: Transformation is a very large topic within the Department of Defense. How does BMMP contribute to the overall transformation of the Department?

DR. TIBBITS: Well, we have to examine basically two aspects of departmental operations on the business side. One is, of course, our computing infrastructure and how those systems operate, what they do, how they interact with each other, and at the same time examine the policies, procedures, practices, and regulations to tell our people how to operate. And it's our job to devise what the new state of affairs should be both on the information technology side and on the people, processes, and practices side, and get those things to come about in parallel at the same time.

MR. PROW: I see you have a very diverse background, in reading your bio. Can you describe your previous experiences prior to becoming director of BMMP?

DR. TIBBITS: Well, my most recent employment opportunity, I guess you could say while I was on active duty with the Navy for 25 years, was as the program executive officer for information technology for the military health system. In that job, it was my responsibility to manage the information technology programs of the Army, Navy and Air Force medical departments. I was actually the first program executive officer, so I also had the job of standing up that organization, in addition to coalescing all of those programs together into that one office. All of that work was tri-service work, so it gave me the sort of experience and some of the insight necessary to understand how to deal with programs across service boundaries that were both Army, Navy, Air Force, et cetera, et cetera.

Prior to that, I actually had experience as a program manager with the largest forms of departmental IT projects, acquisition category 1 programs. I was the chief information officer for the Navy Medical Department. I was the commanding officer for the Navy Medical Information Management Command, and other positions, deputy director for the Defense Medical Systems Support Center.

I guess, actually, I had a little bit of background in test and evaluation also. I actually was in charge of test and evaluation on the medical information technology programs at the beginning of my career in information technology, so I became quite acquainted with operational tests and evaluation, and how that's applied to systems.

MR. PROW: Very good. Often, cross-domain and cross-service programs within DoD are not for the faint of heart per se. How have you been successful in crafting your prior experience of working across the services and applied those to DoD in the BMMP program?

DR. TIBBITS: Well, it's a matter of getting people to work together. In this case, in the Department of Defense, both in my past experience in the military health system and today, it's very smart people. This is like having an all-star team of 11 very good quarterbacks all bringing to the game their own playbook. Unfortunately, what happens to happen here is since they're all good playbooks, we still have to choose the best among them because we can't have all these quarterbacks playing with the playbooks they have in their heads.

So we're working very hard and very aggressively to get all these really good people and really smart people to collaborate with each other, just as all-star players would have to learn to do when the all-star game comes around. We do that through a variety of means, through our governance structures, by organizing those governance structures in a way that the Under Secretaries of Defense have to collaborate to lead the transformation initiative forward. We do that through the DoD acquisition process by taking a business missionary view of the systems that are going through the acquisition process to make sure all stakeholders have their interests represented.

It's the same with the test and evaluation community to make sure all the business communities have their interest represented in any given program that is moving forward that way. And then by studying the requirements up front from a whole business missionary of perspective, it becomes much easier I guess to align individual programs with an overall direction once there's a road map stated on the front end. And capturing that requirement's generation process on the front end is also a lot of what BMMP and the business enterprise architecture's about.

MR. LAWRENCE: What's your perspective on the speed of decision-making in your environment? Often, the people we talk to are surprised by the speed of decision. I don't know if they have a general opinion of is it faster and it should have been slower, but they're just surprised in terms of what takes place, especially around large programs such as this.

DR. TIBBITS: Well, Department of Defense, again, I think has a well-established culture of, shall I say, program management, more recently codified by the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act, but there's a longstanding tradition of acquisition and program management actually antedating that public law.

The Department, therefore, has a well-honed, time-tested approach to decision-making for large initiatives, and in so doing, manages to establish continuity for these large initiatives across many administrations and over many years. The short and long-term budget process the Department uses also serves as a force for continuity across many years and many administrations. So just as the Department manages to build larger aircraft carriers, which are big projects and take a long time, where continuity is absolutely important, the same is true in any other large initiative in the Department. Decisions can be made. There's a structured way to revisit those decisions if they have to be revisited, but that's a rationale and a reason, the process to do that, and it manages to keep the Department on track, just about where we should be with respect to program risks, and flexibility, and keeping up with changing demands.

I guess at the end of any large initiative, which takes a while to do, there's got to be revalidation that the needs have not changed while the initiative was reaching maturation. So at the end of this whole process of whatever it is, for information technology systems or for aircraft carriers, or weapon systems, there's some form of operational testing and evaluation to still validate, when this thing is ready to be implemented, whatever this thing is, that it still meets the needs that are prevalent at that time.

MR. LAWRENCE: That's an interesting point, especially about the structure and rigor.

What role does enterprise architecture play in modernization? We'll ask Dr. Paul Tibbits of the Department of Defense for his perspective when The Business of Government Hour returns.

(Intermission)

MR. LAWRENCE: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, and this morning's conversation is with Dr. Paul Tibbits, director, Business Management Modernization Program for the Department of Defense.

And joining us in our conversation is Chuck Prow.

Paul, can you describe the current business and IT operating environments in the Department of Defense, and what are some of the biggest challenges surrounding that?

DR. TIBBITS: Well, I guess if you wanted to look at the number of systems as an indicator, that might be one example. In the business side of the Department, every day we're discovering new systems, and we're approximating 4,000 or so now business applications on the business side of DoD, many of which overlap and are duplicative with one another with respect to what they're intended to do.

The worse problem than that, however, is that in the software, in those systems, unfortunately, a lot of beauty was in the eye of the beholder, and there are many rules and regulations that were so subject to interpretation, that in fact when software was written, they were instantiated differently in the software. So there's less than uniform behavior of those programs with respect to a given rule, or regulation, or functional intent.

So the business variation that is embedded in that variety of software out there is actually another one of the major problems we're dealing with. And, of course, I think as most people in the IT community would recognize, in the legacy environment, much of the code is old and may be poorly documented. There may be a whole bunch of other issues -- there are -- with the systems with respect to just their information technology health as IT systems over and above and independent of the variation that they represent.

So I'd say the major challenge is managing complexity. And, again, whether it's computer systems or people, systems that are getting the job done in some way or another, or very smart people who manage to get the job done in one way or another, to collaborate with each other in a much more effective way to reduce variation where that variation is, in fact, not value added to the Department.

MR. LAWRENCE: And so BMMP will address these challenges by having one system of the 4,000? How will BMMP address the challenges?

DR. TIBBITS: No, that would not be the way. A better way to look at it would be a blueprint. If our listeners today were familiar, for example, with the Winchester House, it is a fine example of what happens when you build a house without a blueprint. It is a ramshackled mansion, where, in fact, on any given day, visitors to the house can't quite even come out with the same count of rooms in it as they did the day before. Stairwells lead to the ceiling. Chimneys don't reach the ceiling. Closets open to solid walls. It's a fine example of what happens without a blueprint.

The Business Management Modernization Program, one of our objectives is to create the business enterprise architecture. That business enterprise architecture is the blueprint. It's the road map of what processes we need consistently implemented across the Department and consistently implemented, therefore, perhaps across many computer systems. So we're allowing right now for variation at the technical level with respect to which vendor's products are used, which particular software solutions are used, as long as they can be configured in such a way that the requisite and interoperability happens, and that thing one is supposed to connect to thing two; that that actually happens, and that that connection is correct, and it happens at the right time. Thing one and thing two both are on schedule at the same time. And, therefore, from a schedule perspective are also available to be connected. So it's that road map. It's that blueprint that is the principal way that we're trying to deal with and manage that complexity.

On top of that, we have a transition planning responsibility, which is to take that road map and oversee the execution activities of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, et cetera, to make sure that the systems they're bringing online in fact comply with that road map. And, in fact, they are bringing on sufficient numbers of systems sufficiently fast to bring about the vision that is represented in that road map.

MR. PROW: Great lead into our next question. Enterprise architecture is a complex subject. In your words, can you describe to the layman the value of enterprise architecture to the organization?

DR. TIBBITS: Absolutely. Enterprise architecture I think can just be thought of as a blueprint. That blueprint serves -- I think most people would recognize -- as a communications tool, if nothing else, between the designer of the house, or the designer of the building and the person who's buying the building. So, one, they can communicate before a lot of investment is made in actually putting up walls, and gutters, and beams, and digging holes in the ground as to what this thing is supposed to look like.

And that very same tool, that blueprint, serves as a communication vehicle between and among the general contractor and all the subcontractors to make sure all the piece, parts, fit in there in the right place so that the wiring goes through the walls where it's supposed to, the piping goes through the walls where it's supposed to, and it goes through when it's supposed to, actually. And the size of the wiring, and the size of the piping is what it is intended to be.

So the business enterprise architecture is much the same thing for system developers and actually much the same thing for the developers of policy. So the policy documents that come out -- the Department of Defense directives, the Department of Defense instructions, instructions from the Department of the Navy on policy -- are all in arrayed in such a way that they're complementary to that business enterprise architecture, and support and cause to bring about the transforming processes that we want, so that those people understand how they're supposed to get their new jobs done in concert with the new systems coming on line to support those new jobs.

MR. PROW: In effect, linking the operations, the processes, and the technology; is that correct?

DR. TIBBITS: That's correct.

MR. PROW: What do you think the role of the enterprise architecture should be in shaping the future of the process and operations in DoD in the future?

DR. TIBBITS: Architecture, just like a blueprint, does no good if one draws all the connections on a piece of paper, folds it up, and sticks it on a shelf. It's got to drive implementation activities; it's got to drive decisions. And those decisions that have to be derived from it are decisions on how we spend money in the Department and how we spend money on, buying computers, configuring computers, deploying computers throughout the Department and implementing them, and likewise has to drive decisions on which policy documents the Department develops and puts forth.

So the implementation of the architecture, the way it drives change, is through those implementation pathways by guiding and constraining the traditional acquisition processes of the Department, and by guiding and constraining the policy formulation processes of the Department.

MR. PROW: Great. Can you briefly give us your vision of how the BMMP, or the Business Management Modernization Program, architecture will be implemented?

DR. TIBBITS: Yes. First, I think everyone would recognize that the Department of Defense is large. We would be first and foremost among those recognizing that. So to transform a big enterprise like the Department of Defense, our leadership has determined that an incremental approach is the best approach. So the first thing is to set about segmenting in priority order the first set of processes and practices that we want to accomplish, then the second, then the third, and to go in order. That incremental approach has led us to determine that the unqualified audit opinion, asset accountability, and total personnel visibility are the first aspects of the Department that are going to go through this transformation process.

After that, we're looking more directly at the acquisition processes themselves, total asset visibility, valuation of assets, more detailed aspects of force management, health care, and actually occupational health and safety as our second increment of departmental operations that we'll look at. Then lastly, as a third way, the programming, planning and budgeting of the system itself, total force management, and getting down to actually more specifics about the management of our bases, posts, camps, and stations around the world.

MR. PROW: What is your office's specific role in helping BEA to be implemented?

DR. TIBBITS: Well, several. The Business Management Modernization and Systems Integration Office is the program office that is in charge of carrying the Business Management Modernization Program forward. So it's our responsibility, and we are accountable for the program as a whole. As such, there's a certain specified set of deliverables, there's a specified cost, and there's a specified schedule on which we have to produce those things that we have to produce.

Many of those deliverables that we have to come up with and activities we have to conduct are related to cross-domain integration. Cross-domain integration is looking at those areas of expertise within the Department that relate to human resource management, acquisition, logistics, installation and environment to make sure that they are all operating in concert with each other to achieve this transformed vision. So cross-domain integration is a large part of our responsibility. And then, again, developing the business enterprise architecture itself. And while that is going on, of course, operate the governance structure, if you will, for the Business Management Modernization Program to make sure the most senior leadership in the Department is fully apprised of what the program objectives are and our progress in achieving those objectives.

MR. PROW: Implementation of such a complex transformation is complex, I suppose. What impact do you think BMMP will have on the overall DoD culture and how it conducts business?

DR. TIBBITS: Well, I think there will be several aspects that will become perhaps more and more manifest over time. Number one, my sense of this is -- and I think we're seeing this already. Let's call them pockets of erudition or responsibility within the Department to get a job done, which will more and more over time find themselves collaborating with some other pocket of erudition and accountability.

So we'll see, I believe, as we're already beginning to see, actually, much more peer-to-peer collaboration without necessarily a chain-of-command direction to do so in every instance. So more spontaneous collaboration I think is going to happen as a result of just building the architecture, where it takes a great deal of collaboration across communities to actually get a process fully mapped out. And that's beginning to ramify itself, or translate itself, propagate itself, throughout the Department.

I'd say mutual respect and understanding is going to be a reasonably significant change, because where the rules and regulations that the accounting and finance community, let's say, had to live with because of OMB Circulatory 11 or the financial management regulations, whatever those documents need to be, the logisticians are now coming to have a much greater appreciation for and why it is that those are rules and regulations the Department has to live with, which heretofore, the logisticians may have had no visibility of or no reason to even know about. So that kind of, let's say, mutual respect, derived from understanding, I think is going to become more and more evident. Then, as I say, in the way we're building the architecture I think now is already becoming manifest.

Next, efficiency, because we're mapping out these processes across communities of interest. Where someone might have had to check something three, and four, and five times, if a process is now designed so that the person at the end knows that something that should have been checked was checked at the beginning, it only has to get checked once. I think a lot of efficiency is going to come out of that. From that, I think we'll wind up reducing cycle time on a lot of stuff, whether it's buying things, whether it's shipping things, whether it's ordering parts. Cycle times I think are going to continue to diminish. And overall, I think as that cycle time comes down on buying things or whatever the business decision is, I think we're going to find out that we on the business side of the Department actually become much more flexible in our ability to keep up with the pace of combat, with the pace of what our fighting forces need.

MR. LAWRENCE: Interesting, especially the point about spontaneous collaboration.

Why does the Department of Defense focus on getting an unqualified financial audit opinion? We'll ask Dr. Paul Tibbits of DoD to explain this to us when The Business of Government Hour returns.

(Intermission)

MR. LAWRENCE: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, and this morning's conversation is with Dr. Paul Tibbits, director, Business Management Modernization Program for the Department of Defense.

And joining us in our conversation is Chuck Prow.

Well, Paul, in the previous segment, you took us through the program and the implementation plan. Can you tell us about the timeline and where you are now?

DR. TIBBITS: Sure. We are three years into this program now, and continuing to push forward with our transformation agenda. We have just issued our second release of the architecture. We're planning right now, actually, to do a complete once-over view of the entire architecture that we need as our initial blueprint or baseline in the next fiscal year. So we believe we'll be through not only the increment one portion of it, but the increment two and third increment to get the initial baseline architecture done.

We're now standing up portfolio management, which is the Department's way of looking at systems in blocks to make sure, one, that these systems actually operate and fit with each other, and that number two, as a block, they actually fit with and support the future vision of where the Department is going, so fit with each other and fit with a vision. Those system reviews, that process called portfolio management, is actually starting now, this month. Of course, we'll have much more rigorous and much more comprehensive go-rounds of that next year.

With respect to timelines, we are targeting still to have the unqualified audit opinion as our first objective on the financial statements for FY 2007. So the Department is going through a lot of reengineering, I guess you can say, about financial management practices to hit that 2007 target. All of this change that I've been describing and talking about, actually much of it has already started, is ongoing while we're here speaking, and will continue to go. My belief is it's going to continue actually to go on for the next two decades. Having said that, there are going to be very important milestones along the way, where there is refinement of our acquisition processes, refinement of how we manage our bases, posts, camps, and stations will happen as important milestones every year over that time frame. So this is going to be a continuous process, but with important accomplishments along the way of that nature.

Lastly, with respect to an overall plan of transformation, we, of course, will continue to work very closely with the General Accounting Office and with Congress to produce those performance metrics necessary so that everybody can understand, Congress and taxpayers, what the Department's progress is in achieving those objectives.

MR. PROW: You mentioned achieving an unqualified audit opinion. We understand you just released a new version of the BEA. How does this lay the groundwork to help BMMP accomplish your goal of achieving that unqualified audit opinion, and in addition, improving asset accountability, and improve personnel visibility?

DR. TIBBITS: Well, the most important thing is since that objective, the unqualified audit opinion, is heavily rule-based, very dependent on the proper interpretation and implementation of rules and regulations, we've spent a great deal of effort looking at the processes of conducting day-to-day business in the Department in light of those rules and regulations. A lot of the effort in producing this release of the architecture has been taking those rules and regulations and attaching them into the day-to-day business processes of how we order parts, and how we manage funds, and how we manage our accounts payable, et cetera, attaching these rules and regulations into those processes where they belong, but doing it in such a way that there's a single, unambiguous interpretation of those rules and regulations, in that instance, by the accounting and finance domain, because they're the designated subject matter experts for those rules and regulations.

And then, subsequently, by the way, that blueprint that I just described will ultimately become the blueprint that is used to guide and constrain the acquisition processes for information technology, and ultimately will lead to the configuration of the selected system so that those systems behave, in fact, in accordance with those rules and regulations and in accordance with that single interpretation of them.

MR. PROW: What are some of the challenges you're facing launching such a complex program while the country is at war?

DR. TIBBITS: Of course, the Department of Defense is all about national security, and we have to take a balanced approach, where we follow the guidance and priorities of our senior leadership, and all at the same time not distracting them from their national security objectives and their national security missions.

The real art form here and the real balance is to make sure, one, we move forward as aggressively as we can on business transformation while we continue to meet our national security objectives. Number two, we engage our senior leadership just the right amount to allow them to focus on the high priority things, which is protecting the country with the assurance that we're doing what we need to in the business environment. And then number three, actually, try to accomplish the business transformation at a pace that is sufficiently rapid that we can actually more effectively support the legitimate demands of our combatant forces to get to them what they need more quickly, more efficiently, at lower costs, et cetera. It's that balancing act.

MR. PROW: How does your office help DoD prioritize the urgent needs of a country at war with long-term goals?

DR. TIBBITS: Well, in several of our areas, the entire objective of the business community is to support the warfighter. So with respect to balancing those priorities, our requirements, if you will, are all stated in terms of support to our combatant forces. Understanding what those requirements are, explicitly mapping those requirements into our business processes to make sure those processes are as effective as they are and connect up to those warfighting mechanisms the services use to get troops to theater, to get them back from theater, to get supplies into theater, the logistics connections and so forth, is what we're all about. Those connections are all integral to, I guess you can say, the business enterprise architecture and its implementation.

MR. LAWRENCE: How is top leadership's buy-in for this program obtained, and how important is it that that was done?

DR. TIBBITS: Well, the top leadership of the Department, first of all, initiated the program. So to begin with, it was and remains a top-down driven program. It was really no need in that sense to garner support of the senior leadership. The senior leadership drove the program from the outset, and that remains the case today.

That engagement is important to the success of the program. On the other hand, we all have to be responsible enough in the business community to understand that our senior leadership is also rightfully very focused on the national security mission of the Department of Defense. At the same time, while that senior leadership engagement is real and while it's important, we have to in the business community exercise enough leadership to continue to push the transformation objective forward, again continuing to do that while our combatant forces and our leaders are focused on that national security mission. We just have to wind up accomplishing both at the same time.

MR. PROW: BMMP is providing the blueprint that you have described earlier in the conversation, but each organization will be responsible for implementing compliance solutions. What are some of the benefits and challenges of this approach?

DR. TIBBITS: I think stated simply, it's getting all of the important stakeholders and important communities in the Department of Defense to operate with each other more effectively than they have done in the past. That notion of interoperability among communities of interest and among systems will lead the Department more and more every day, closer and closer to the just-in-time notion of delivering to troops what they need, exactly when they need it, ordering parts and delivering them exactly when needed, and delivering them to the place they're needed. It's a zero-latency construct.

In so doing, we, I think, wind up supporting our troops much more effectively than we're currently doing. That's always the groundwork, I must say, for our fighting forces to get what they need from their perspective on demand. So also from the business community, we're trying to create what would amount to is intelligent pull construct, so the way troops get what they need when they need it is by being able to demand what they need, at the moment they need it, and get it based on that demand.

MR. PROW: Portfolio management has been introduced at the DoD as a message for managers to make decisions. Please describe the concept of portfolio management and what your office is doing to help implement it throughout DoD.

DR. TIBBITS: When we talk about portfolio management, we're referring to investment decisions with respect to information systems. Portfolio management means looking at a list of information systems, a group of information systems, as a group. That group is defined by some functional similarity among those systems. The functional similarity is developed and understood based on the architecture. So having grouped systems, then the two aspects that have to be considered -- and this by our business domain is principally by the way -- is, one, do those systems fit with each other very well, in the way they're supposed to fit with each other; and, number two, do all those systems fit with the future, say, vision of the Department, or are they actually carrying the Department forward in a way that achieves the transformation objectives of the Department. You might call that a topologic view of systems so that they're considered in these blocks. At the same time, of course, that block of systems can be examined for duplication. And where there's duplication there, and where more than one system is doing the same thing, without any necessity of course, developing sunset dates for those systems so that we reduce the variation and number of systems out there, and, therefore, reduce the overall cost of operating our information systems as well.

The next part of portfolio management is timing all that with the budget cycle. So portfolio management in the Department will be an annual event. So on an annual basis, driven in concert with the program, planning and budgeting cycle and the appropriation cycle, if you will, to reexamine every year, again, in those blocks whether the systems are still on track, whether they're still needed, whether there's been any change in our external environment that says what we thought was the right portfolio last year, is there any reason to change that this year; has anything gone afoul internal to that portfolio from last year to this year. It's an annual event whereby there is a reexamination, reassertion, that that block of systems still needs to move forward and is, in fact, on schedule.

MR. LAWRENCE: That was interesting, especially about the block of systems.

What are the lessons learned from the Department of Defense's business modernization to date? We'll ask Dr. Paul Tibbits of DoD to give us his perspective when The Business of Government Hour returns.

(Intermission)

MR. LAWRENCE: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, and this morning's conversation is with Dr. Paul Tibbits, director, Business Management Modernization Program for the Department of Defense.

And joining us in our conversation is Chuck Prow.

Well, Paul, what are some of the lessons you've learned so far?

DR. TIBBITS: Well, I would say first and foremost, clearly established objectives stated in terms of the business of the organization is absolutely important. And by the business of the organization, I mean whether it's finance and accounting objectives, or buying systems, or delivering supplies to our fighting forces. Whatever those functional objectives are, they have to be clearly stated and broadly understood in order to find a transformation objective.

Next, I would say program management discipline. Again, in the Department, I believe we have a very strong culture of program management. Some of the challenges are actually applying that culture properly and fully to this or other initiatives. But that program management discipline is a very clear depiction, or leads to a very clear depiction of what one's accountable for with respect to deliverables, with respect to cost, and with respect to schedule. I just don't think there's any way around the program management discipline to get things done. It is how the Department has gotten things done for years, and it's just an important technique with respect to achieving a transformation objective as well.

Lastly, I would say in any transformational activity that I've been involved in, this one or smaller ones, the balance of patience and impatience is extremely important. You have to be both at any given moment and on any given day, and you have to appreciate both patience and impatience at any given moment on any given day. Both help the program. The right amount of patience because of the complexity is very important. On the other hand, the right amount of impatience to keep driving change is also equally important.

MR. LAWRENCE: How is this effort similar or different from other modernization efforts you're familiar with?

DR. TIBBITS: In several aspects. For example, I was in the Department of Defense during what was called the Corporation Information Management Initiative, which was a business process reengineering initiative in the Department. I would say today, first of all, we have certain benefits that we did not have then.

The BMMP Initiative, one, is more structured. Number two, there's much more of a top-down strategic flavor to this, where the program itself was initiated at the most senior leadership levels of the Department. The notion of change and change management I think today is much more mature than it has been years ago in other transformation initiatives that I have seen.

Today, we have much broader commitment to the transformation objectives of BMMP, both internal to the Department of Defense, and on the part of the General Accounting Office, and on the part of Congress. So broad-based expectations throughout the federal government create a certain sense of continuity and momentum that I don't think was there before in other change initiatives. Public law. I mean, we actually have guidance given to us by Congress as an expression of their intent with respect to what the transformation objectives of the Department are, and, to some extent, how we should go about accomplishing them. So all these features I think are there in our environment today that weren't necessarily there with other transformation objectives, or smaller transformation objectives, or earlier ones.

MR. PROW: Although it's early in the process, have you seen measurable success related to BMMP?

DR. TIBBITS: Yes, I think so. We have collaborative initiatives going on throughout the Department that I think without this broad-based interest in architecture and the application of architecture to serve as organizing framework for people to collaborate, wouldn't be there. Transcom, which has now become the distribution process owner, is way down the road on projects with respect to implementation of those enterprise resource planning systems there in support of their distribution process ownership mission.

The services; the Navy is moving very quickly towards what is called a converged enterprise resource planning system for the entire Department of the Navy. Air Force has just made an internal decision, or I guess I can say is in the process of elevating a recommendation through their chain of command to go with a single enterprise resource planning system for the entire Department of the Air Force.

I think these changes are coming about because of the recognition, not only the importance of transformation, but in the importance of achieving that transformation through structured collaboration, without which the transformation can't happen. We are seeing significant change actually already.

MR. LAWRENCE: Given your experiences in both public and private sectors, what do you see as the future of collaboration across different levels of governments and the private sector?

DR. TIBBITS: Well, that's a very interesting question. I've actually, not only in this job, but in prior jobs, had the opportunity to make some observations in that regard. And, actually, in the interim, while I was in the private sector, I served as the lead consultant on information technology to President Bush's task force to examine DoD-VA collaboration.

From a lot of perspectives, I would say that the opportunities for collaboration between government and industry are excellent, not only buying and selling, which, of course, in a commercial sense is much of what we're about on both sides; really, the government buying what it needs and industry selling to us what we need. But, of course, for industry to do that, based on a thorough understanding of our requirements, reduces the investment expense and so forth on the part of industry to try to provide those goods and services. Enterprise architecture I think gives us a good framework to interact with industry for industry to better understand in a very explicit and exact way what the needs of the Department are.

On the other hand, the reality of collaboration among federal agencies, let's say at the cabinet level, across cabinet secretaries, if you will, is still reasonably problematic. While each agency I think is going to move forward, and there's going to be tremendous opportunity to collaborate between agency and industry, the collaboration among agencies I think still has a long way to go. The agencies are big, have different missions. The congressional oversight committees have different jurisdictions. Their internal processes for capital planning and investment and so forth are different. Their planning horizons are different. Getting the agencies in a peer-to-peer way to collaborate with each other is probably going to be, in my view, a good bit more problematic, in fact, than getting the government to collaborate directly with industry.

MR. LAWRENCE: You have the perspective of someone who has had a long career in public service. What advice would you offer to someone just beginning their career in public service?

DR. TIBBITS: First of all, I would say, to be realistic about it, my view of all this is that public service is in fact its own reward. One should not think about public service in view of, let's say, an opportunity for financial compensation per se or your own well-being in that sense. It's an opportunity to serve the country. And that opportunity to serve the country in its own right in many ways should be viewed as a reward in its own right. People should think about that a lot and really understand that.

Number two, I'd say despite perhaps many people's views of the contrary, I've seen much more often than not, internal to government, that money and resources come to a good idea. Leadership is really important. Thought leadership is really important. People have to kind of get their own thoughts in order, and be willing to express them, and able to express them coherently in order to obtain the resources and the money to actually achieve their vision of the future state, and it happens.

Number three, I think a certain sense of passion is important with respect to working on initiatives, or taking an organization from place A to place B, going through some form of transformation. A certain degree of emotion and a certain degree of passion I think is a good thing. It actually helps to feed the sense of impatience with respect to why it is the government is not, in some aspect, better than it is and perhaps better able to serve citizens.

I think it's important in a large organization -- certainly in the government, and I guess this would be true in any organization -- once you get started is to frequently ask yourself what progress you've made. Have you done something today to really advance the cause? Have you made decisions? Have you met with people? Have you convinced somebody of something? Have you spent money? Have you made some decision today that actually moves your initiative or makes your area of the world and responsibility better?

MR. LAWRENCE: I'm afraid we're out of time, Paul. That will have to be our last question. Chuck and I want to thank you very much for squeezing us in your busy schedule.

DR. TIBBITS: Paul, Chuck, thanks so much.

If any of our listeners are interested in further information on the Business Management Modernization Program, you don't have to do anything more than go to your search engine of choice and type in BMMP, and it will take you right to our website.

MR. LAWRENCE: Thank you.

This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Dr. Paul Tibbits, director of Business Management Modernization Program for the Department of Defense.

Be sure and visit us on the Web at businessofgovernment.org. There, you can learn more about our programs and research, and get a transcript of today's very interesting conversation. Once again, that's businessofgovernment.org.

This is Paul Lawrence. Thank you for listening.

Dr. Paul Tibbits interview
01/01/2005
"The Business Management Modernization Program will make our practices and processes efficient to be as flexible in our business practices as our combat forces are in their warfighting mission."

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