ANOTHER VIEW

Bush's management agenda sounds familiar

Warren Suss

Federal agencies are going to become leaner, flatter organizations that provide subagencies and programs with greater decision-making authority. Management will concentrate attention and resources where services are delivered and mission-critical functions are performed. Agencies will support programs with better tools. They will gather the information needed to monitor and assess program performance. They will reallocate resources to more effective programs, and will optimize roles and responsibilities between public and private partners.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? This vision'recently restated in the President's Management Agenda'isn't new. You've seen pieces of it before in the Government Performance and Results Act, the Paperwork Reduction Act and other legislative and administrative initiatives dating back decades. The PMA gives government and industry yet another chance to accomplish what they've been perpetually trying to do.

How do we get it right this time? It will take three steps.

First, the right IT. Most agencies remain burdened with yesterday's systems. They were not designed to capture program-level performance information and can't link strategic plan elements to budgets and financial information. They allow only limited, static analysis of program cost and performance.

Such systems embed yesterday's petrified business processes. The very systems intended to make government work better actually make it impossible to achieve the vision behind the PMA.

Agencies need a new generation of core IT to enable improved strategy, budget, program and activity management.

Second, government and industry must acknowledge that technology alone won't get us there. Government needs to reorganize the way it manages, pays for and deploys technology.

The PMA focuses on program-level activity, yet too many CIOs and chief financial officers focus on headquarters issues. They neither understand nor support activities at the government-citizen interface. Government needs to change its organizational models to a mix of customer service and management oversight. That will help enhance and monitor program-level performance. Agencies also need better processes to balance program-level and enterprisewide IT capital investments.

Third, and here's the catch-22, even the latest technology isn't there yet, so the industry needs to mature it.

The government's challenges include more efficient and effective enterprisewide information management; better links between strategic planning, budgeting and program control; improved citizen relationship management; and more effective personnel planning. Industry offers lots of products that can help meet these challenges, but they require a lot of work to make them ready for federal prime time.

The CIO, CFO and HR communities must work together to support the recently designated chief operating officers. The COOs' first order of business is to create organizational environments that favor success. Then they need the right technology, acquisition, implementation and risk mitigation strategies to turn the promise of the President's Management Agenda into reality.

Warren Suss is president of Suss Consulting Inc. of Jenkintown, Pa. He provides IT, research and tactical support to government and commercial clients.

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