With mandates, such as PortfolioStat, requiring that federal agencies consolidate IT resources to become more efficient and cut costs, etc., aligning IT programs and projects becomes essential. As we recently discussed in ModernGov, it is that very misalignment, and the presence of duplicative processes, that stands in the way of efficient operations for organizations.
ModernGov recently spoke with Chris Steel, chief solutions architect at Software AG Government Solutions, about how visibility into an agency’s IT components and projects can help them in aligning IT to their business mission.
ModernGov: Why is it important for a federal agency to align its IT projects and priorities to its business mission?
Chris Steel: Over the past few decades in certain agencies, IT has taken on a life of its own and moved away from the agency’s overall strategic business mission. They may have adopted duplicative technology initiatives or signed on for the latest tech trend, such as Big Data or cloud computing, regardless of whether there was real strategic value for the agency. When this happens, it can cause friction and hamper an agency’s ability to deliver on its mission. With mandates like PortfolioStat, the focus is back on realigning IT with the business mission in order for IT to fulfill that traditional role of supporting the business. In terms of cost cutting and adding value without adding additional overhead, it’s crucial that IT is aligned with the business mission in order to provide the most amount of services with the least amount of resources
ModernGov: How can a federal agency CIO/CTO approach projects to ensure alignment of IT to an agency’s business mission?
CS: First, you need clear communications channels between all the relevant stakeholders within the agency, and that doesn’t mean just the CEO, CFO, or the operations manager. It means everyone who is involved in supporting the agency’s mission. These leaders need visibility across the IT portfolio and a means for understanding what each stakeholder in the agency has invested in, is using, and may need in terms of technology. The director that is setting the strategic mission for the agency, needs visibility into what the agency has today and how it aligns to the mission goals for tomorrow. Additionally, they need a high-level view of inter-dependencies and how those inter-dependencies trickle down to the enterprise, to the programs, and eventually to the projects that support it. Visibility leads to a better understanding of what exists and what is needed, so that the agency can plan better – for the short- and long-term – and know what IT solutions can be brought to bear to deliver on that high-level mission.
ModernGov: Do you think fed agencies do a good job of aligning IT strategy to agency mission?
CS: Over the past few years, with the downturn in the economy and the financial crisis, agencies have been doing a much better job of focusing on re-aligning both the business mission with lower-level project goals throughout the agency. Unfortunately, many agencies are sinking more time and resources than necessary into that lower level alignment, because they don’t truly understand what they have in place, in terms of IT solutions. By adopting products that give them insight across the whole IT portfolio, they can create ‘What if?’ analysis scenarios for a more efficient and effective alignment of project goals with overarching business goals. For instance, if you wanted to look at a data center consolidation initiative, you would likely want the ability to run numerous scenarios to understand where you will get the biggest bang for your buck. This visibility is critical not only for increasing your ROI and allowing you to do more with less, but to help you meet the KPI’s as outlined in PortfolioStat.
An example on the commercial side that I think could easily apply to agencies entails a large financial organization which took a very structured approach to adopting an IT Portfolio Management solution that gave them true visibility into their IT resources at all levels. Rather than trying to go out far and wide, they approached it very intelligently by going to one business unit, imported all the IT asset information for that business unit, mapped out the different dependencies, etc., to enable them to visualize all the assets that were applicable to that business unit. They could see, from a high level down, all of their IT supporting components, what high-level programs they support, what ongoing projects were utilizing these components, and the status of the projects in terms of – financials and timeline. They knew which of their hardware assets were supporting those projects, where they were with licensing, what assets were near end of life, etc. The biggest issue they uncovered centered on repetitive services. It presented a starting point for where they could start consolidating, and eliminating repetitive assets, projects, and even programs to create cost savings and greater efficiencies. They have shown millions in ROI in just a few years.
Another area of cost-savings encountered by our customer was in their new ability to identify obsolete hardware. For example, any given organization may have thousands of systems running, with hundreds of them simply left running because no one is quite sure what applications are reliant on those machines. Out of fear of shutting down a critical application, the machines are never turned off. By leveraging a portfolio management tool, an agency can identify its inventory and interdependencies, and help them understand what they have, what they can shut down, what is obsolete, what is redundant, etc. Armed with that information, agencies can move forward and realize the tangible, near-term benefits of shutting down unnecessary assets and remove the risk associated with not understanding what is going to happen.
In our next post, Steel will share his top three tips for agencies that need to create greater alignment between their assets and federal mandates.