OMB: Ask industry for a helping hand

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Make the case

From the start, the Office of Management and Budget turned to industry for help in developing information technology business cases. Although agencies are finally beginning to take advantage of that resource, the process still needs some tweaking, experts said.

Private sector companies are familiar with their own processes, not the one set out by OMB, pointed out Howard Stern, senior vice president at Federal Sources Inc., a market research firm in McLean, Va.

FSI, with McConnell International LLC, hosts a series of seminars for industry members who are looking to work with agencies. Translating the requirements from OMB's Circular A-11 investment guidance into terms that industry will understand is a large part of that education.

One of the most significant problems agencies are still having with their business cases is the examination of true alternatives, according to OMB. Industry can help agencies conduct market research to determine whether there is not only better technology, but also a better way to perform the service, said Bill McVay, former deputy branch chief for IT and policy in OMB's Office of E-Government and IT.

"Our smartest solutions and answers are going to come from a partnership between the federal government and private industry," McVay said. "There is a lot of knowledge sharing that needs to happen."

In order for industry to help agencies, companies are going to have to learn exactly what agencies' missions are, which means looking beyond the traditional viewpoint in which a single contract is the only concern, said Bruce McConnell, president of McConnell International and former chief of information policy and technology at OMB.

But companies will have to be even more careful than usual about the appearance of conflict of interest, possibly even to the point of not bidding on contracts for a program for which the company helped write a business case, Stern said.

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