The push to implement Technology Business Management standards went quiet for much of the past year. There was little public discussion among agency chief information officers or chief financial officers.
The Office of Management and Budget released no memos or policies over the past year pushing TBM forward until this past July when it updated Circular A-11.
And even in A-11, the annual budget guidance, there is no direct mention of TBM — a priority since 2017. A-11 highlights TBM-related concepts like the requirement for agencies to “complete the phased implementation of more granular IT cost reporting. While there is no expectation that agencies will change authoritative data systems at this time, agencies should continue to categorize costs into IT Cost Pools and IT Towers. Over time, OMB will work with agencies to determine how to automate authoritative data collection.”
While the push for TBM has been inconspicuous at the OMB level, there are rumblings from below. The CIO Council released a new guide developed by the Federal Technology Investment Management (FTIM) community of practice and the General Services Administration’s Office of Governmentwide Policy, called Meeting IT Priorities with TBM.
The council said the guide helps “to illustrate how IT cost transparency can be enhanced through the TBM framework,” and “aligns the priority activities to the four disciplines of TBM (transparency, delivering value, shaping business demand, and planning and governing) for a more enhanced description of how TBM can help meet the agency goals.”
Kelly Morrison, a former a performance analyst in OMB’s Federal Chief Information Officer’s office and now a director leading Grant Thornton’s TBM practice, said the new guide is important piece to helping CIOs, budget analysts and others working in the capital planning and investment control (CPIC) function to integrate TBM processes and change management efforts.
“The value of any policy, initiative, management framework, process or tool is based upon utility and utilization. This guide will hopefully provide agencies a broad view and understanding of how TBM data and insights can start to be integrated and leveraged with the various business processes and how to engage stakeholders across the organization(s),” she said. “Until TBM data is utilized to inform the various processes, products and overarching planning, programming, budgeting and execution lifecycle, agencies are missing the opportunity to unlock the true value potential. This guide can be a helpful map for agencies.”
New CPIC tool
At the same time, GSA released a new tool, Folio, which is for IT portfolio management.
“Designed by the federal eCPIC Steering Committee (FESCOM) community, Folio is the successor to the eCPIC application, which served as the premier governmentwide shared service for over 15 years,” GSA wrote in a July 27 blog post. “It is a web-based, government-owned, fee-for-service technology solution that helps agencies manage and report to OMB on their portfolio management, IT capital planning, and IT governance processes. The new application provides an improved user interface, flexible data collection capabilities, and a modern technology stack.”
GSA said 17 agencies tested and migrated more than 13,000 records to Folio between March and July. The data includes more than 2,600 investments, more than 4,300 projects and 1,700 users.
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Taken together, these are the first new tools and guides agencies have as they hit the home stretch with their 2022 budget requests, which traditionally are due to OMB in mid-September.
Agencies are under specific deadlines to implement TBM through their 2022 budget request, but the uphill climb to use these standards has been slow. As part of the President’s Management Agenda, CIO Council’s Federal Technology Investment Management (FTIM) Community of Practice with the support of ACT-IAC industry volunteers will develop an IT spending transparency maturity model. The current state of the maturity model is unclear.
This is why the new guide becomes important to educate IT and non-IT executives about how to use TBM. It seems part refresher and part initial education of a CFO or budget analyst who is learning about the standards.
“I encourage agency representatives outside of the TBM community to review this guide as it may help them understand how to engage and leverage the team leading the TBM effort,” Morrison said. “There needs to be a partnership where the agency is embracing the TBM framework as a game changing management tool – it’s an uphill battle if there is a single team driving without organizational support and engagement.”
Applying TBM to IT priorities
In the guide, users can learn how to apply TBM to IT strategic plans or the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act, the CPIC process or any number of priority initiatives like data center consolidation and optimization or the continuous diagnostics and mitigation (CDM) program.
“This document explains how agencies can use TBM as a part of a larger IT cost transparency effort to meet IT priorities,” the guide states. “Each priority outlines initiatives and related requirements from OMB guidance, memos, and/or legislation. The guide below provides a crosswalk to identify and understand how TBM can help satisfy relevant requirements.”
The end goal with TBM, as a few agencies have learned, is to get a better handle on where they are spending money on technology and then make better decisions based on that data.
A 2018 survey by the TBM Council and Grant Thornton found public and private sector CIOs are struggling to become a trusted partner instead of seen just as a cost center.
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Jim Gfrerer, the assistant secretary for information and technology and CIO at the Department of Veterans Affairs, said during a recent interview that the coronavirus pandemic is helping to break that cost center perspective.
“People often look at the enterprise costs, and they say, ‘what do I get out of that? Well you have a highly functioning and efficient Trusted Internet Connections gateway so you also get access to those applications that we built, and without that reliable and durable enterprise, what good is the world’s finest and most premier application?” he said. “Through TBM, we’re able to show the administration in the staff offices, a budgetwide, enterprisewide, here’s what we’re spending on you direct and indirectly to provide you those services that you so desperately depend on.”
Grferer said VA, like the private sector, has to start asking itself when does it become a technology company delivering healthcare outcomes?
He said the pandemic has started to bring employees around to that point of view.
“You really can’t shortchange your technology because it is becoming the critical, indispensable aspect of your care delivery,” Grferer said. “The Veterans Health Administration motto is ‘care anywhere, at anywhere,’ and you only do that with technology.”
And if you don’t know what that technology costs, it becomes even more difficult of a challenge to become a technology provider of mission outcomes.