Use framework to guide IT investment

With the rapid changes in information technology and the rising popularity of the Internet, it's critical that organizations take action to refine their approach to IT investment.

If investments in IT are managed wisely, the benefit to the organization and its mission can be significant.

The Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 requires federal agencies to focus more on the results achieved through IT investments while also streamlining the IT acquisition process. In 1997, the General Accounting Office developed guidance based mostly on the Clinger-Cohen Act that provides a method for evaluating and assessing how well a federal agency is selecting and managing its IT resources. This guidance also identifies specific areas where improvements can be made.

GAO further enhanced this guidance by developing the Information Technology Investment Management (ITIM) framework, which identifies critical processes for successful IT investment. It then organizes these processes into a framework of increasingly mature stages:

    1. Creating investment awareness.

    2. Building the investment foundation.

    3. Developing a complete investment portfolio.

    4. Improving the investment process.

    5. Leveraging IT for strategic outcomes.

The framework both addresses the maturation of the thinking process in the area of IT investment management and includes data received by GAO from organizations based on their experiences in having to create IT investment processes and mechanisms.

If used, this guidance could help the organizations analyze their IT investment management processes. GAO outlines three key benefits of using the ITIM framework:

    1. Agencies would have a standardized tool for evaluating their IT investment management processes.

    2. Agencies would have a consistent, understandable mechanism for reporting assessment results to agency executives, Congress and others.

    3. Agencies can use this as a roadmap for improving their ITIM processes.

An important factor to note is that achievement of the integrated framework model also would depend on a other good management practices, such as investment in human capital, training, IT architecture and software management.

The roadmap put forth by GAO provides the basis of a framework and methodology for thinking about federal organizational maturity to repeatedly deliver high quality products and services.

For more information on the ITIM framework, check the May 2000 GAO guide, "Information Technology Investment Management" (PDF).

Tart is senior program analyst in GSA's Emerging IT Policies Division and co-chairwoman of the Federal Webmaster Business Council.

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