Now for the hard part
- By Diane Frank
- May 12, 2003
One system may not be appropriate for everybody, but the Bush administration believes fewer systems can serve more people at less cost. The Office of Management and Budget is now treading a new path to move agencies to fewer e-government systems.
But any strategy that OMB officials create to move agencies from antiquated processes and systems to new ones developed under the 24 e-government initiatives will be complex. Some experts suggest that OMB should instead build on policies that already exist.
Most of the 24 e-government initiatives have succeeded in getting an initial system up and running within two years. The next step of moving from legacy systems to a single solution will take another 16 months to 18 months, said Mark Forman, OMB's administrator of the Office of E-Government and Information Technology.
Turning off existing redundant systems is just as important as developing a single cross-agency solution, but "it will take until next summer to get the migrations really done," Forman said, speaking May 1 at the Input MarketView 2003 conference.
There is no clear formula for migrating systems from the old to the new in government or the private sector. Most migration strategies address moving directly to a new system that is serving a similar function as the old one, and that is not what the e-government initiatives are doing, Forman said.
"We're migrating from those independent systems to one that is new for the users on the external and the internal side," he said. OMB is working with agencies to develop a process for shifting from the legacy systems to the new ones, he added.
But there is no single example that OMB can apply directly to government because the government is so big, said Olga Grkavac, executive vice president of the Enterprise Solutions Division at the Information Technology Association of America.
"But hopefully some of the larger companies would have some experience [from mergers of acquisitions] that could be relevant," she said. "There are never perfect examples or case studies, but there are parts that they can extrapolate from."
The trick is applying those best practices and also learning from the bad examples so agencies do not repeat mistakes that others have already made, said Charlie Grymes, project manager for Recreation.gov. That is where government can really learn from the private sector, he said.
The Recreation.gov initiative is one of the few already tackling the migration issue. Last December, OMB issued a directive to consolidate the multiple online reservation systems across government. But that was only the first, and easiest, step, Grymes said.
The next step is figuring out how to move from the existing processes to the new process, and that's where cultural and political issues come into play, he said.
Program leaders need to determine how to make sure all of the partner agencies' needs are represented in the final product, but they also need to ensure that no one agency gets more say than is necessary.
"We're all invested in the as-is architecture.... Now we're asking them to turn it off, shut it down," Grymes said. "But systems have life cycles. Part of the life cycle is termination. That's the hard part to make happen culturally."
Many of the steps can be drawn from the work already done on the federal enterprise architecture to link program and business needs with performance and results, said Carl DeMaio, president of the Performance Institute. That linkage is something that agencies are still struggling with, he said, but it will show officials why it is necessary to move from one system to another.
"It's not just a technical migration, it's a cultural migration," he said.
Just as OMB has used the budget to enforce the development of joint business cases, the administration will likely need to grant or withhold funding to enforce legacy systems shutdowns, DeMaio said.
And showing that agencies benefit from the migration will be crucial, in part because it will help government officials realize that moving to a new system doesn't mean the old one was a waste of money, he said.
Out with the old
The Defense Department is involved in several cross-agency e-government initiatives, but it is also addressing migration from a special point of view because of its size, said Mark Krzysko, deputy director of electronic business in the Defense procurement and acquisition policy office. He spoke at an Input conference May 1.
Officials announced in April they would be shutting down the DOD Business Opportunities (DODBusOpps) Web portal over the next few months and moving to the governmentwide FedBizOpps site. However, DODBusOpps fulfilled some Defense-specific needs, and the transition will continue until fiscal 2004 to make sure those needs will still be met, Krzysko said.
Moving forward with modernization efforts within the department, the procurement office plans to get more involved to make sure old systems are phased out when new ones go online. It is a delicate process that requires going through all the appropriate steps to make sure nothing is missed and all requirements are met, he said.