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White House Pushes IT Project Reviews Government-Wide

The Office of Management and Budget has released a toolkit to help federal agencies meet a mandate to increase use of TechStat performance review sessions.

Kundra's kit for getting started
Federal CIO Vivek Kundra's heavy use of TechStat, a face-to-face, data-intensive process to dive deep into at-risk IT projects and come up with ways to fix them, has led to a $3 billion reduction in costs and greatly accelerated deliverables for the projects that have gone through it.

Now, in an effort to help agencies meet a White House mandate to spread TechStat sessions throughout federal IT, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has released a toolkit that includes templates and documentation so agencies can hold their own TechStat sessions.

TechStat began last year as part of a long-term effort by OMB to improve IT performance and accountability. After preliminary research to uncover and analyze the troubled projects, the hour-long TechStat sessions bring together agency CIOs and other stakeholders to hash out solutions to budget, schedule, and performance woes, working through performance data and project plans to figure out where things went wrong and how to fix them.

The TechStat Toolkit should make it easier for agencies to comply with OMB's mandate. The toolkit is a set of 17 files that includes a letter of introduction from Kundra, a training slide deck that will be presented to agencies during in-person training sessions in February, a step-by-step guide to the TechStat process, a list of standard investment analysis questions to ask as part of the process, and templates and documents for TechStat participants (including PowerPoint decks to use during the live session and a template for a corrective action plan).

For example, prep questions ask about the project's business case, performance, risk management, project management, alternatives, re-baselining, acquisition strategy, development methodology, and more. The training deck, meanwhile, includes graphical representations of the multi-step TechStat process, and the 28-page guide offers a comprehensive look at TechStat overall.

The documents give insight into the process by outlining the typical agenda of a TechStat session; defining who to engage in the process, how, and when; walking agencies through the steps to identify appropriate projects for review and how to collect and analyze relevant documentation; and even offering up a proposed seating chart for agency TechStat sessions.

Early TechStat sessions last year produced successes, such as the Small Business Administration saving taxpayer dollars by moving to purchase smart identity cards from the General Services Administration for one-seventh the price it had been paying. Kundra quickly began talking about spreading the TechStat model throughout government, and agencies like the Department of the Interior began creating similar processes.

The 25-point federal IT reform plan released by OMB in December mandates TechStat's spread, with the goal of turning around or ending at least a third of underperforming federal IT projects within 18 months. Federal agencies must implement TechStat at the agency level, with their first reviews scheduled to take place March 31. According to OMB, agencies have already determined which projects are up first on the chopping block. Now, with the new toolkit, they'll have just the right tools to hold IT managers' feet to the fire.

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