GAO calls for better IT management

GAO report: Information Technology Management: Governmentwide Strategic Planning, Performance Measurement, and Investment Management Can Be Further Improved

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Agencies lack a full implementation of information technology strategic planning and performance measurement practices associated with key IT laws, officials at the General Accounting Office said this week.

Investment management practices are also inadequate, with many agencies lacking boards with oversight control to properly manage IT investments, GAO officials said.

For a report released Feb. 11, GAO reviewed 26 organizations — 23 major departments and three military services — to determine the government's implementation of IT management practices. The review was requested by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairwoman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee and Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Government Reform committee's Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census subcommittee.

In the reviewed agencies, 46 percent of the IT strategic planning and performance measurement practices were in place, 41 percent were partially in place and 7 percent were not in place, officials found. The agencies generally had strategic plans, but the plans did not address important issues on information resources management, such as records management and privacy. Although the agencies had goals, they were not always linked to specific measures, GAO officials said.

Developing IT goals to support agency needs is an example of planning and measurement practices. The agency should then be able to measure progress against these goals and assign roles for achieving them, according to GAO officials.

"The lack of full implementation of these practices is of concern because effective strategic planning is important to ensure that agencies' IT goals are aligned with the strategic goals of the agency," GAO officials said.

In most cases, agencies said there was a lack of agency leadership, the plans needed refining or the process is being refined, GAO officials said.

In the area of IT investment management, 44 percent of the practices were in place, 37 percent were partially in place and 17 percent were not in place, officials said. For example, most agencies had investment review boards, but the boards did not have written procedures for oversight. Officials said that agencies cited several reasons for incomplete investment management, including the vacancy of the chief information officer position, the oversight of including requirements in the investment guidance or the refinement of the process, officials said.

GAO officials recommended that the OMB director develop guidance on implementing information resources management plans, addressing the elements defined in the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. OMB should direct agencies on the best way to communicate information about the cost performance and schedule goals of major IT programs, and one option for this reporting could be in the agencies' annual reports required by the Government Performance and Results Act, GAO officials said, also making specific recommendation to each evaluated agency.

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