Forman pushes for open standards

Financial management applications have become very complicated, and agencies should change the way they invest in them, a former government information technology chief said today.

Agencies should start using Web-based and open-standard solutions, moving from several applications to a single fabric based on business processes, said Mark Forman, former administrator of e-government and IT at the Office of Management and Budget.

"The data center itself, the management center of IT, has become too difficult to manage," Forman said, speaking at a PeopleSoft Inc. Financial Management Seminar in Washington, D.C. "What's emerging is a concept of a fabric."

Technology companies in the Silicon Valley — including Cassatt Corp., where Forman is executive vice president — are exploring open-standard software that focuses on the architecture. This is known as self-serving or autonomic computing, which enables systems to configure themselves according to changes and requirements.

Autonomic computing saves agencies money and allows for faster customizations, he said. Agencies are "over-tailoring, and hence overspending," he said.

"There's not a reduction in spending," Forman said. "There's a change in spending. There's a change in IT that's coming very, very rapidly."

Most citizens don't see the federal government as a single enterprise and are often confused about where to go for services, he said. Although this maze won't go away immediately, there is a movement toward integrating business processes across government to make it easier for users to get the tools they need.

Agencies should consider integrating financial management and human resources applications and providing the right tools for project management, Forman said.

"First thing is assessing where your gaps are in the current performance," he said, noting that agencies should examine decision-making cycle time, productivity and quality metrics. "If you work in those three areas, I guarantee you a good business case."

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