GAO drafts IT guide
- By Paula Shaki Trimble
- Jun 05, 2000
The General Accounting Office has drafted a "how-to" guide for federal agencies
to develop a management process that will help them see a maximum return
on their information technology investments.
IT managers will use the GAO Information Technology Investment Management
(ITIM) framework to assess and improve procedures for deciding what IT to
buy. A year in the making, the 172-page report explains such techniques
as improving project oversight and asset tracking; developing a complete
investment "portfolio," rather than looking at each project individually;
and conducting post-investment reviews.
"It's a good cookbook, a step-by-step "how to make your process good,'
" said Leslie Roberts, manager of IT planning and budget at the Interior
Department. "The maturity model gives you a good guide for conducting
GAO based the guidelines on a similar management framework, the Capability
Maturity Model, developed by the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie
Mellon University and used across the government for managing large software
Like the software CMM, GAO's IT management framework lays out five stages
of management "maturity" based on the sophistication of the investment
management strategy. In Stage 1, organizations purchase IT without a disciplined
investment process. By Stage 5, organizations make a link between IT projects
and the results of those projects.
The criteria for the levels of IT management are particularly useful,
Roberts said. For instance, to reach Stage 2, an agency must develop and
maintain an IT inventory, and the guide describes what the IT inventory
Comments on the guide, "Information Technology Investment Management:
A Framework for Assessing and Improving Process Maturity," are due by September,
when GAO expects to release the final version.
In evaluating an agency's IT investment management, GAO will ask the
agency to conduct a self-evaluation, then will work with the agency constructively,
said Lester Diamond, assistant director of GAO's Accounting and Information
In the past, GAO used a guideline that asked agencies 160 questions,
"which gave us 160 answers but no real structure to tell us where the agency
stood," he said.
"ITIM provides a road map for progress," Diamond said. "Once an agency
evaluates itself against it, it can understand what it needs to do to improve.
And it can help them refocus their resources to get to a certain level."
That type of upfront analysis is the missing link of acquisition reform,
said Chip Mather, senior vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc., a
federal procurement consulting company. Proper management of IT investments
early on is needed to hold agencies responsible for their spending, he said.