Panel: Execs should work together

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. — Effective information technology planning and execution must involve both the chief information officer and the chief financial officer, officials said today.

In fact, most government executives, including those for procurement, technology and administrative functions, should have a seat at the IT planning table, a panel of government and industry representatives said today at the CIO Summit. FCW Media Group hosts the event.

Without a structure in place to guide IT investments, project managers find ways to get often-unnecessary projects funded, said Gloria Parker, chief technology officer at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. For example, project managers may circumvent the CIO and go to the CFO for funding. Meanwhile, the chief procurement officer may already be spending funds for the project before its plans have been finalized.

"The problem was, in many cases, there was no structure, no organization around getting an IT project funded, and executing on that funding," Parker said.

In response to the chaos, HUD officials embarked on the capital planning process, building a structure to manage the IT portfolio, Parker said. A senior review board, made up of about four executives, gathers to discuss and review the portfolio before it goes to the executive committee of the department for approval. Similarly, as the project is executed, each entity must approve various stages, she said.

"At HUD, we now have a very thorough system in place," she said. "Nobody gets around us now."

Officials in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also saw the importance of running the IT shop like a business. They established a capital investment review board that approves all IT and non-IT projects and defines the agency's strategies, said Marguerite Moccia, ATF's CIO. Below the review board is the Information Resources Management Council, led by the CIO that recommends new IT projects and controls the implementation of the systems.

The shift within the agency hasn't been easy, Moccia said, as officials have struggled with the lack of budget and procurements skills within the IT shop and the change to performance-based contracting and.

"It's very challenging from year to year with different pots of money and different time periods to manage the projects," she said.

Douglas O'Brien, executive vice president of Tibco Software Inc., said enterprise architecture is at the heart of integrating the business and the technology. Without that framework, executives will struggle to work together.

"We're still in a stovepipe environment, but we're there for good reason," he said. "Until we put in the larger structure for everyone to plug in to, we have to proceed this way. The challenge is we have to take a larger view."

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