Tool lets agencies show OMB the IT money

eCPIC app integrates architecture, performance and security data

"The core of eCPIC is to report to OMB quarterly. But we also use it to preselect, select, control and evaluate IT investments." Marie Stephens, State Department

Rick Steele

When the Commerce Department got a request from the Office of Management and Budget for more information regarding its fiscal 2007 budget submission, officials didn't have to scramble to find and format the data.


Instead, Commerce officials'like those at 13 other agencies'simply tapped into the Electronic Capital Planning and Investment Control (eCPIC) system.


ECPIC, a government off-the-shelf application, is the next-generation IT Investment Portfolio System (ITIPS) that helps agencies collect IT project data and write the business cases they submit to OMB each September.


'Commerce uploaded the data to OMB's IT Web system as an XML file with no problem,' said Marlon Sellow, Commerce's IT capital planning specialist.
It also is quickly becoming more than just a pass-through system. Along with Commerce, the 13 other agencies using eCPIC, including the departments of Energy, Interior, Justice, Labor and State, the General Services Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, have upgraded the system to act more like a portfolio management tool.


Over the past year, Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. of McLean, Va., eCPIC's contractor, added portfolio management, Web services, investment scoring and investment management modules.


'The goal is to leverage data across the organization with eCPIC as the hub for many applications that exist within an agency,' said Jerry McQuoid, a senior associate and eCPIC program manager for Booz Allen.


More Complete Picture

By using eCPIC to collect and present data, agencies get a more complete picture of the status of their investments, said Marie Stephens, an IT specialist in State's Office of Planning and chairwoman of eCPIC's monthly technical committee meeting.


'The core of eCPIC is to report to OMB quarterly,' Stephens said. 'But we also use it to preselect, select, control and evaluate IT investments, and update the earned-value management pieces of cost, schedule and performance of each project monthly.'


ECPIC started as ITIPS in 1997, when Energy hired Booz Allen to develop a system to write IT business cases, said James Benson, a principal with Booz Allen, who also ran ITIPS for years.


As technology advanced, ITIPS fell behind because it was a legacy system that provided a one-size-fits-all environment instead of a flexible one, and was not Web accessible.


The agencies using ITIPS agreed to revamp it in 2003 and relaunch it in 2004. By 2005, eCPIC included a variety of other tools.


Booz Allen built eCPIC on Microsoft .Net platform running on Windows 2000 and 2003 servers. Components can run on Unix or Linux as well, McQuoid said. Data is stored on Microsoft SQL Server 2000 or Oracle9i databases, and the front end uses XML and Simple Object Access Protocol for Web Services. Users enter the system through a Web browser, by inputting their user identification and password.


McQuoid said some agencies have as few as 50 users while others have thousands.
Agencies evenly share the cost of system upgrades and maintenance, which in 2006 was $106,000 per department, Sellow said.


All 14 agencies have an equal voice in the changes to eCPIC, and each provides a nonmonetary contribution, Sellow said. Commerce and Interior, for instance, provide user acceptance testing for new modules.


State officials also use the application to review investments in 10 different categories, such as IT security, privacy, risk management, alternative analyses, training and lifecycle cost formulation.


'I couldn't imagine life without it because we have limited people and dollars to develop business cases and track IT investments,' Stephens said. 'The tool has given us the best value for capital planning process.'

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