I-TIPS tracks IT dollars

The departments of Agriculture, Energy and Housing and Urban Development are testing a
system that lets agencies manage the money they spend on systems as capital investments.


The Information Technology Investment Portfolio System (I-TIPS), which agencies can run
as an intranet application, will help systems managers ensure that IT investments mesh
with their agencies' critical objectives, Energy and USDA officials said.


Only USDA, DOE and HUD now use I-TIPS for pilot programs, but the Chief Information
Officers Council is promoting its use governmentwide and touting it as an invaluable tool
in making IT decisions.


"It's a super management tool," said Agriculture CIO Anne Thomson Reed.
"It captures a lot of information that now is in disparate places."


I-TIPS was Energy's brainchild, but Agriculture joined with DOE to develop the system
after the Government IT Services Board and the Interagency Management Council provided
seed money. To help with the project, Energy tapped Booz, Allen & Hamilton of McLean,
Va.


The IT Management Reform Act requires that agencies manage and track systems spending
as a capital investment. Agency CIOs wanted a system, based on Office of Management and
Budget and General Accounting Office guidelines, that would tell them what they were doing
right and what they were doing wrong, said James T. Benson, project manager for Booz,
Allen.


The goal was to make I-TIPS sophisticated enough to provide sound analysis but easy for
agencies to implement and use, he said. The system has four modules:


I-TIPS is relatively simple to use, and nearly the entire system can be modified to fit
an agency's specific needs, said James F. King, a systems analyst in the Energy CIO Office
and the department's I-TIPS project manager.


Agencies, however, must have a capital investment process in place for the system to
work well, he said. "The tool is only as good as the process you have in place,"
King said.


To provide analyses and investment recommendations, the system requires that users key
information into specific data fields. Using weighted criteria developed by the user and
based on an agency's requirements, I-TIPS ranks a system's status and investment risk.


Booz, Allen developed the system using commercial products, Benson said, and based it
on the GAO's and OMB's IT lifecycle guidelines. "The requirements were kind of
dictated to us," King said.


One key decision was to make I-TIPS a World Wide Web tool, agency officials said.


Don Stonecypher, program support staff director for USDA's Risk Management Agency and a
former project manager in the department's CIO Office, said that by making I-TIPS an
intranet app, most agencies can run it with minimal or no systems upgrades.


"The Web is so ubiquitous," he said. "Nearly everyone who needs it has
access to the Web, and it makes the system hardware-independent."


I-TIPS runs under Microsoft Windows NT and taps an SQL Server Version 11.0 database
from Sybase Inc., Benson said, and will support other databases. To make the data
accessible to Web browsers, the system uses Cold Fusion Application Server Version 3.1
from Allaire Corp. of Cambridge, Mass.


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