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White House's New Attack On IT Spending Waste

Office of Management and Budget tells agencies to "look into the darkest corners" to eliminate duplicative, inefficient technology, orders portfolio reviews, consolidations.
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The Obama administration's efforts to wring savings out of federal IT through consolidation and shared services got a push Friday, as the White House announced a government-wide series of agency IT portfolio reviews and new requirements for agencies to consolidate and centralize IT services.

In a new memo, Office of Management and Budget director Jeff Zients and federal CIO Steven VanRoekel announced two new initiatives: one called PortfolioStat, a series of annual face-to-face, data-based reviews of agency IT portfolios, and another to require agencies to develop consolidation plans for commodity IT services.

The memo implored agencies to focus on high-value IT investments and put an end to deployment of redundant IT services within federal agencies. "The stove-piped and complex nature of the federal enterprise has led over the years to a proliferation of duplicative and low-priority investments in information technology," the officials said in their memo. "At the same time, agencies too often seek to develop homegrown, proprietary solutions first, before assessing existing options for shared services or components."

[ Federal IT security is getting a closer look. See Congress Proposes FISMA Overhaul. ]

PortfolioStat will form part of the solution. The PortfolioStat program draws inspiration from private sector practices as well as the administration's TechStat program, in which agency IT officials gather for a project-specific, data-intensive powwow to help revive at-risk IT projects. Private sector companies have been leveraging IT portfolio management tools for years, and OMB looked to Adobe, OSI Restaurants, and Symantec in drawing up its plans. TechStat, meanwhile, has been responsible for about $4 billion in savings since 2010, according to the administration, which lends some confidence to the potential success of PortfolioStat.

According to a blog by VanRoekel, PortfolioStat aims "to assess the current maturity of their IT portfolio management process and make decisions on eliminating duplication across their organizations," and to give agencies "tools to look into the darkest corners of the organization to find wasteful and duplicative IT investments."

As part of the sessions, agency deputy secretaries or chief operating officers will work with federal CIO VanRoekel and agency CIOs, CFOs, and chief acquisition officers to sift through and find savings in agency IT portfolios. The sessions will draw on, among other things, data on commodity IT investments, potential duplications, and investments that are poorly aligned to the agency's mission.

The one-hour sessions, the first of which agencies must hold by July 31, will lead to agreement on concrete next steps for agencies to take "to rationalize the agency's IT portfolio," according to the memo.

Agencies will also be required to create consolidation plans for commodity IT services, with draft plans due June 29 and final plans due August 31. The plans will include targets for reductions and consolidation, targeted duplicative systems and contracts, and criteria for identifying wasteful, low-value, and duplicative investments. By December 31, agencies will have to transition two commodity IT areas, such as email, wireless, or productivity tools, to shared services or consolidated purchasing.

As federal agencies embrace devices and apps to meet employee demand, the White House seeks one comprehensive mobile strategy. Also in the new Going Mobile issue of InformationWeek Government: Find out how the National Security Agency is developing technologies to make commercial devices suitable for intelligence work. (Free registration required.)