PortfolioStat: Rigorous program reviews similar to system integrator best practices


Systems Integrators must put quality first or they will fail. Every integrator I know has processes in place to ensure program success. The best include rigorous reviews early in program life to help program managers succeed. Rigorous review processes check program documentation, personnel training, schedules, budgets, risks, and overall plans. Reviews also include input from customers.

Rigorous reviews are a part of every successful program. When you hear of programs that fail, assume the organization did not have a rigorous review process in place.

With that context in mind I wanted to point out that the federal government’s approach to IT Portfolio Management (PortfolioStat) is evolving to remind me very much of the rigorous program review activities I see in place at the best systems integrators. Here is more:

– I’m hearing from CTOs and CIOs that PorfolioStat reviews have rigor and are comprehensive. I’ve also heard that the preparations for PorfolioStat reviews result in useful information surfacing long before the review. That allows agencies to take action before the issues get too far out of hand and also allows them to report bad news to the boss vice having higher headquarters the the one to discover it.

– The PorfolioStat process was kicked off by OMB (Jeffrey Zients and Steven VanRoekel) in March 2012. The focus is on IT and it involves “accountability sessions” with agency leadership. A year after its kickoff Zients and VanRoekel issued an update. This update indicated that results over the first year were positive and significant, with agencies identifying 100 opportunities to consolidate or eliminate commodity IT investments, like combining multiple email systems and eliminating duplicative mobile or desktop contracts.

– Their 2013 update enhances the PorfolioStat activities and integrates in the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI). This is smart for a couple reasons, one is that both initiatives have matured a bit and this is a good time. But also it makes sense that as agencies focus on enterprise-wide approaches to IT programs and modernizing applications they should also consider best practices and modernizing data centers.

– Data center metrics are no longer based on how many are closed. Reporting is now done on whether or not a data center is core or not. Non-core will be slotted for more closing. Core will be modernized. Core datacenters will have more metrics associated with them, including an ability to measure total cost of ownership but also more detailed measurements of the many components of TCO. Metrics on service use will also be applied.

– Reviews are designed to ensure an even better alignment between IT and the agency goals and missions that the IT is designed to support. Some of this seems like minor changes, like who signs off on agency Information Resources Management Strategic Plans. The COO of the agency will now sign them. Everyone hopes (and assumes?) this will mean better alignment of IT to mission, and it seems like that is a valid assumption.

The PorfolioStat guidance memo provides information not only of value to the government organizations that must comply, but to the integrators that serve these agencies and, the technology companies that sell software and hardware to both the integrators and to government. Find more here.

In coming posts we will work up more detailed info discussing what integrators and developers should know about PortfolioStat. We believe there are things developers and integrators can do to help make agencies more successful in this activity and overall that will be good for agency missions. More on that soon.

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