IT Isn't Planned Strategically At Government Agencies, Report Says

The General Accounting Office says government agencies' strategic plans and goals aren't always linked to specific performance measures that are tracked.



A majority of 26 major government departments and agencies surveyed by congressional investigators have failed to fully implement IT strategic planning and performance measurement and IT investment-management practices, according to a 148-page report issued by the General Accounting Office on Wednesday.

The report, titled "Information Technology Management: Governmentwide Strategic Planning, Performance Measurement, And Investment Management Can Be Further Improved," says the surveyed agencies' use of 12 IT strategic-planning and performance-measurement practices, based on legislation, administration policy, and White House guidance, is uneven. For example, agencies generally have IT strategic plans and goals, but these goals aren't always linked to specific performance measures that are tracked.

"Without enterprisewide performance measures that are tracked against actual results, agencies lack critical information about whether their overall IT activities are achieving expected goals," writes David Powner, director of IT management issues at GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, to the chairs of Senate and House panels responsible for governmental IT management.

In addition, GAO says agencies' use of 18 IT investment-management practices is also mixed. The agencies, for instance, largely have IT investment-management boards, but no agency had the practices associated with the control phase fully in place. Executive-level oversight of project-level management activities provides organizations with increased assurance that each investment will achieve the desired cost, benefit, and schedule results, the GAO report says.

According to the report, agencies cited various reasons for not having practices fully in place, such as that the CIO position had been vacant, that not including a requirement in guidance from the White House Office of Management and Budget was an oversight, and that the process was being revised. "Regardless of the reason," Powner writes, "these practices are important ingredients for ensuring effective strategic planning, performance measurement, and investment management, which, in turn, make it more likely that the billions of dollars in government IT investments are wisely spent."

The GAO pegs the percentage of agencies fully employing IT strategic-planning and performance-measurement practices and IT investment-management practices at 46% and 44%, respectively. Most of the remaining agencies have partially implemented the practices.

Most agencies have recognized the problem. But, Powner says, OMB in oral comments to the GAO expressed reluctance at issuing further guidance because the White House office doesn't want to be prescriptive in terms of what agencies include in their plans. "A strategic [information-resource-management] plan that communicates a clear and comprehensive vision for how the agency will use information resources to improve agency performance is important," he writes, "because IRM encompasses virtually all aspects of an agency's information activities."

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