Internaut: Budget Season: An IT Manager's Guide

"Wise managers will target multiple software licenses, redundant databases, conflicting data fields and multiple servers." Shawn P. McCarthy

Most federal IT departments have nearly finished setting their fiscal year 2008 spending priorities. In about two months, each agency's proposed IT spending portfolio for 2008 will be published by the Office of Management and Budget.

But between now and then'and all the way up to final 2008 federal budget approval'IT department managers, agency CIOs and various oversight committees will continue to hammer out specific details and priorities for large IT projects.

A lot can happen between now and September. Here are some of the big trends that IT managers should consider when finalizing both new projects and updates.

1. Consolidate! Projects that focus on system consolidation and standardization tend to receive top priority. Concurrently, there is great pressure on agencies to assure proposed projects align directly with a line-of-business initiative.

2. Plug into the Federal Transition Framework a little early. The program office for the Federal Enterprise Architecture recently issued its latest FTF outlining the preferred structure for cross-agency initiatives to ease the sharing of information. Technically, FTF participation doesn't begin until fiscal 2009, but agencies need to consider it for the long term. For 2008, agencies will have to participate in the EA Assessment Guide process. The assessment is used to score agencies' EA plans and progress, with results listed very publicly in the next quarter's President's Management Agenda.

3. Seek infrastructure optimization. Closely tied to No. 1, this trend focuses both on improving systems efficiency, and reducing licensing and maintenance costs. Wise managers will target multiple software licenses, redundant databases, conflicting data fields and multiple servers. Migration toward virtualization is a worthy goal.

4. Management success counts. Cost continues to prevail as a deciding factor in more discrete technology purchases. But for larger projects, agencies desire both government managers and vendors who can manage complex, heterogeneous environments. A short-term project is less desirable than a holistic, long-term approach. This may mean building partnerships with some of the dominant services vendors or government Centers of Excellence.

5. Improve citizen services. This continues to be an investment priority, especially when targeting emergency response systems, justice information availability and general government-to-citizen interactions.

When planning for the long term, the best thing government IT managers and system planners can do is to consider what the value drivers are for any IT improvements they may want to propose. How will spending eventually cut agency costs, improve compliance, boost government efficiency, and improve citizen services and safety?
This is the way the executive branch (and, increasingly, Congress) will measure IT value. It's a convoluted, imperfect system at the moment, but the business of measuring such value is increasingly driving agency behaviors.

Agencies want to deliver results, and IT managers must understand these drivers if they hope to get their projects funded for the long term.

About the Author

Shawn McCarthy, a former writer for GCN, is senior analyst and program manager for government IT opportunities at IDC.


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