Survey finds agencies not using portfolio management

Federal executives understand the benefits of portfolio management, but few actually use it, according to a new survey by George Washington University professors.

More than one-half of the 59 CIOs, chief technology officers and program administrators that responded to the survey said that they have not documented their applications or infrastructure, nor do they centrally track IT projects.

Additionally, 59 percent said their IT staff does not understand project metrics such as return on investment, and 67 percent said they do not track project benefits.

Bill Taylor, an adjunct professor at the university and a staff member in the Housing and Urban Development Department's CIO office, provided an overview of the study that compared portfolio management practices of the federal government and Fortune 1000 companies. Taylor spoke at a luncheon sponsored by the Association for Federal Information Resources Managers in Washington.

'Civilian agencies with larger IT budgets are the ones that are doing better,' Taylor said. 'Maybe it is because they have a larger budget so they have more resources. We thought the smaller agencies would do it better because they had less to keep track of.'

Taylor briefed the CIO Council last week, providing a snapshot of where each agency stands and where each can improve.

The study found that the biggest areas where there are gaps among agencies include:
  • Managing projects as a portfolio: 46 percent do it now and 88 percent plan to do it

  • Use investment results to improve decision making: 39 percent do it now and 81 percent plan to do it
  • Define and document IT assets: 46 percent do it now and 85 percent plan to do it

  • Use success criteria to evaluate IT projects: 37 percent do it now and 76 percent plan to do it.

One of the biggest challenges for agencies is training, especially in cost estimating, cost-benefit analysis and project management, the study found.

'IT must take the lead, but it has to work with the business side so that the business people accept it,' Taylor said. 'Portfolio management allows us to communicate in a way that business people understand.'


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