OMB tightens screws on business cases

Labor CIO Patrick Pizzella says the requirement is doable for his department.

Henrik G. DeGyor

The days of agencies giving the Office of Management and Budget multiple IT business cases for back-office operations are over.

Beginning with the fiscal 2005 budget requests, due Sept. 8, OMB is requiring agencies to submit three business cases, one each for their office automation, infrastructure and telecommunications IT investments.

In a memorandum late last month to agency chiefs, OMB director Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. said agencies must figure out how back-office technologies fit within their enterprise architectures and present plans with a single request per area.

'In some cases, there has been little coordination or leveraging of these investments across the agency,' an OMB official said. 'Industry best practices show that inventorying the entire agency's needs for these items and then approaching them in an integrated way will result in savings to the federal government.'

Daniels' memo covered a host of 2005 budget topics. It also emphasized the importance of the President's Management Agenda, stated how OMB will use performance measurement tools and highlighted the need for agencies to commit resources to OMB's 25 e-government projects.

OMB's requirement for a single business case for each back-office area presents agencies with the challenge of getting their enterprise architectures at least roughly in place, said Mayi Canales, former Treasury Department CIO.

Enterprise decisions

'If agencies can get their business reference model and performance reference model done, they will make great strides in doing this,' said Canales, now the chief executive officer of M2 Strategies Inc., a government consultant in Washington. 'This requirement will force agencies to make decisions at an enterprise level instead of each bureau making a decision and then going forward.'

The OMB official said the long-term plan is for agencies to submit a single business case to request funding for the infrastructure layer of the enterprise architecture. The use of one request will move agencies toward consolidation more quickly, the official added.

Patrick Pizzella, the Labor Department's CIO, said the requirement is doable for his department.

'We have ensured coordination among those types of projects in our department for some time,' he said. 'It is good management sense and will bring things into focus within the department.'

Debra Stouffer, the former chief technology officer of the Environmental Protection Agency who helped OMB develop its first draft versions of a governmentwide architecture, said the memo makes agencies responsible for developing a complete investment inventory and describing how projects fit within an overall IT plan.

'In the past, agencies submitted multiple business cases in these areas, and OMB was left with the task of putting the pieces together and comparing the proposed investments with the agencies' modernization blueprints,' said Stouffer, now the vice president of strategic consulting for DigitalNet Government Solutions Inc. of Herndon, Va.

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