GAO finishing up IT investment framework

Agencies soon will know exactly what the General Accounting Office looks for when it analyzes their IT investments. The audit office is finishing up the first full release of its IT Investment Management Framework.

Lester Diamond, GAO assistant director for IT management, said the release will cover the second and third stages of the framework: building an investment foundation and developing a complete investment portfolio.

Diamond gave a glimpse of the framework yesterday at a performance metrics conference in Washington sponsored by the Digital Government Institute.

'We learned what makes a good investment process by seeing how agencies apply it and through looking at the private sector,' Diamond said.

Most agencies, Diamond said, are at the second or third stage. Investment awareness is the first stage; stages four and five cover improving investments and leveraging IT for strategic outcomes. The framework will detail best practices for stages four and five. Diamond said GAO welcomes comments from agencies about how to improve these two stages.

After the first draft version came out in May 2000, about 17 agencies, including the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management, adopted at least some portion of the framework, Diamond said.

Changes in stage two'building an investment foundation'demand strong coordination between an investment review board and an enterprise architecture board. Diamond said one board could do both tasks because they are so interdependent.

GAO might put more emphasis on evaluation during stage three, Diamond added. The Clinger-Cohen Act 'says you must go through a select, control and evaluate process,' he said. 'By bringing this into stage three, we are evaluating the investment even more. Too many agencies focus on the select portion and not enough on the evaluation.'

Stages four and five will discuss succession management and forward-looking plans that tie into an agency's enterprise architecture, Diamond said. GAO also will remind agencies to be flexible about IT investments because needs, technology and business processes do change.

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