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How IT Portfolio Management Drives Better Outcomes

This blog post is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide FITARA: What You Need to Know. Download the full guide here

CIOs across the federal government are settling into their newfound authority that came with the 2014 passage of FITARA.

Although provisions in the law empower CIOs at the department level, one thing the legislation cannot do through words alone is give CIOs a holistic view of the decisions being made throughout their organizations.

Even before FITARA, agencies began the difficult task of reviewing their IT portfolios departmentwide. The law renewed that effort by giving CIOs the authority to approve the IT budget and acquisitions across their departments’ IT portfolio. For agencies that fully embrace this new way forward, there are numerous benefits.

“Good IT portfolio management is tactical and strategic in nature, helping agency leaders more easily answer complex questions, such as determining budget allocation for enhancing capabilities like application security in a given fiscal year or planning which IT assets should be phased out,” said Bill Lochten, National Vice President for Software AG Government Solutions, an enterprise software company.

This holistic approach to IT management can help uncover and address redundancies across the IT portfolio as well as assist CIOs in answering strategic questions around topics like the departmentwide IT roadmap and how it correlates to IT roadmaps from sub-agencies.

But before agencies can answer these questions, they first need to understand what assets make up their IT inventory. There are various tools that help agencies create an IT inventory, but many of them only provide limited insights.

The IT planning and portfolio management tool that Software AG provides was built to address those challenges and also includes features that address key objectives of FITARA. The tool, known as Alfabet, was built with CIOs and chief enterprise architects in mind.

As it relates to FITARA, Alfabet helps agencies:

  • Gain better visibility into their IT expenditures.
  • Improve the risk management in IT investments.
  • Provide a platform for collaboration among leaders in the organization and improve oversight of their IT investments.

Software AG launched a survey shortly after the FITARA legislation passed and discovered that government application portfolios are plagued with redundant functions and a lack of transparency, Lochten said, “A strong IT portfolio management tool can help agencies analyze their IT investments in multiple dimensions, including cost, risk, usage, security and how IT fits into their mission.”

In order to align an agency’s IT portfolio with high-level mission goals, a tool such as Alfabet will be essential because it was designed to capture all of the dependencies of the various dimensions of the IT portfolio. Some agencies have inventories of their various applications and the systems that they depend on, but they lack a centralized means to tie all the various dimensions of the applications together to properly analyze how they are aligned to the mission.

These various dimensions may include financial management, resource planning, project and program priorities and system interdependencies. Often, these dimensions are captured independently of each other, making it difficult or impossible to reliably ascertain how they all tie together in the context of the mission.

“That is a process that all government agencies are going through today in coming up with their FITARA baselines,” Lochten said. “What Alfabet does is automate some of that inventory and collection process. We have a very advanced integration capability that allows us to import information about applications, assets and artifacts that make up those applications. That way, we can streamline the process and help make it quicker and less onerous.”

In essence, Alfabet provides a single pane of glass view of the mission that allows an agency to drill down into their applications and systems and see all of these interdependencies. It also provides the capability to perform what-if scenarios to find the best mix of these interrelated applications, projects and processes to fulfill the mission.

“The more you know about the asset, the more you can understand whether or not it should be a part of your strategy going forward,” Lochten said. “Greater visibility also enables tighter alignment between IT and program leadership.”

Agencies that stand to gain the most from FITARA implementation are those that combine a proper IT portfolio management with adoption of the FITARA IT Management Maturity Model, according to Lochten. This model encourages department-wide collaboration across six critical functions of IT management: governance, budget, acquisition, program management, organization and workforce.

This level of collaboration can lead to new discoveries around IT spending, including shadow IT. “Having a tool that can actually aggregate all that information and help agencies analyze their progress is key,” Lochten said. “FITARA isn’t going anywhere, so we’re excited Alfabet can help agencies document iterative progress.”


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