Wednesday, December 15, 2010
OMB’s recently released IT reform strategy has captured attention across the government management spectrum. What makes its chance for success greater than similar efforts before it? In part, its difference is based on incorporating the same practices wit

As announced by OMB last Thursday and widely reported since then, the Obama Administration has issued an implementation strategy for IT reform over the next 18 months.  Much attention has been focused on key elements of the plan, including using budget authority to change or stop major IT systems, incentives for modular development of technology, improved communications among stakeholders across government and with industry and the establishment of program management as a profession; IBM Global Business Services Public Sector leader Chuck Prow blogged about these and other aspects of the plan yesterday earlier this week.

Multiple aspects of the plan involve ideas that have been proposed before, but not implemented in a way that has driven consistent and sustained results.  Two aspects of the plan will increase the likelihood of success:  OMB is following the best practices it recommends in overseeing implementation; and the plan has an end-state vision that merits greater attention.

Following Best Practices. First, regarding the best practices: 

  • Federal CIO Vivek Kundra emphasized that the plan itself is divided into modular phases – functionality and results are expected after 6, 12, and 18 months, with clear milestones to be measured at each stage.  We will have a strong indication as to the success of the initiative at each point, and OMB will be able to lead any midcourse corrections that are necessary – similar to how it expects agencies to pursue IT program management.  
  • The plan was based on strong input from government and industry stakeholders, and OMB intends this communication to continue.  OFPP Administrator Dan Gordon has begun to highlight his plans for supporting actions by procurement officers to support appropriate communications regarding specific IT projects in a way that is supported by agency legal and ethics officers and appropriate communications are being pursued by OMB and on how best to implement the overall plan.
  • The plan is to receive strong governance from the Federal CIO Council and OMB, just as OMB expects agencies to step up their governance of major IT proects.

What Should Success Look Like?  Second, the final page of the OMB Plan contains important language about what we can expect to see at the end of the 18 months – a government that is “more nimble, more cost effective, and more citizen-focused”, in which “IT enables better service delivery, enhanced collaboration with citizens, and dramatically lower costs”.  Projects will deliver results sooner, or be improved or stopped as necessary; agencies will be able to take advantage of excess computing capacity and cloud-based offerings rather than building or buying new data centers; budget flexibility will promote real-time connection regarding spending on key priorities; problems will be caught and corrected sooner.  Perhaps most importantly, citizens will be able to interact with government more directly and effectively to help guide the government’s IT strategy and activities.  Implemented well, the OMB plan promises to deliver a truly impactful future.