Tuesday, December 13, 2011
OMB just announced a set of IT policies and activities in several different and visible areas. This next phase of the Administration’s IT Reform Strategy has the potential to bring significant change over the next 12-18 months.

Last week, the Office of Management and Budget rolled out their information technology (IT) initiatives for the coming year.  Led by new Federal Chief Information Officer (CIO) Steve VanRoekel, supported by his staff under Deputy Lisa Schlosser, the plans represent continuity of much of the agenda fostered by prior Federal CIO Vivek Kundra, plus some interesting and potentially impactful new elements.  

The first category of initiatives represents continuity:  OMB will move forward in implementing the 25 Point Plan for IT Reform, blogged about in this space.  Of the 20 items in the plan with first year deliverables, 14 have been implemented – including significant progress in implementing Cloud Computing -- and OMB is working on schedule to complete three others – including shared services (see below).  OMB is still pressing in three areas that are behind schedule, one for commodity IT buying under a common schedule and two for easing IT spending under the agency CIO that require work with Congress.  And the last five areas, including several focused on improving project management, are in the works for 2012.

Second, OMB detailed its “Shared First” Shared Services Strategy.  Leveraging best practices in industry, OMB’s charge to agencies to move up the maturity curve from commodity to mission applications, through an analysis of areas with commonalities.   Some agencies have moved out in this space already, including intra-agency efforts at the Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration and inter-agency back-office support.  The new strategy drives shared services through agency enterprise architectures (EAs), using the EA frameworks to point out opportunities for consolidation and cost savings in a “Shared First Plan”.  For key success factors for Shared Services implementations, see the blog series in this space. In addition, the Office of Management and Budget is seeking comment on the shared services strategy.

Related to the Shared First strategy is the “Future First” initiative, through which OMB is looking to bring in new and implementable ideas for innovation and modernization.  Future First is intended to ensure that IT shared services are designed based on 21st century criteria to ensure that government keeps up with the pace of technological change in industry.  These criteria include:

  • Ensuring that shared services have multiple consumers and little customization
  • Using web-based solutions with standard interfaces
  • Relying on machine-readable data and XML data formats
  • Moving to the Cloud for hosting
  • Establishing security controls and continuous monitoring of operations

Third, OMB released it’s new security program for the cloud known as FedRAMP (the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program).  FedRAMP has been discussed by OMB and the NIST (the National Institute of Standards and Technology) for well over a year, and represents an important step forward in allowing agencies to adopt cloud solutions that have already been deemed secure for similar programs at other agencies.  The FedRAMP guidance lays out how agencies can collaborate with industry to implement standard security requirements for cloud computing, independent third-party reviews of agency security controls based on those requirements, standard contract and authorization documents for adaption by agencies, and multi-agency governance of the overall process.  

All three elements above contribute to Federal CIO VanRoekel’s four-part strategy for how IT can improve government performance overall:   

  • Maximize the return on investment that IT brings to how government operates
  • Closing the productivity gap between government and the private sector by increasing innovation.
  • Improving the online experience for citizens and businesses to interact with government, and
  • Delivering security as a key component in all Federal IT activities.

Improvements from these initiatives will not happen by themselves, and OMB is working closely with Department CIOs and the Federal CIO Council to implement and sustain change.  Leaders in the IT Industry will also play a key role in defining the path forward.  Even during a time of tight budgets, th overall strategy may make 2012 an active year for the Federal IT community