Graves: TMF is about more than the money
Agencies are still chasing the Technology Modernization Fund's remaining millions, but TMF review board members said on Oct. 17 that some of the biggest benefits have no dollars attached.
In panel discussion at ACT-IAC's ELC conference in Philadelphia, Deputy Federal CIO Margie Graves said the TMF proposal process demands business-case discipline that is critical to the success of any large-scale IT project. She said the second stage of proposal reviews, where agency leaders come before the board in person for a Shark Tank-style discussion, is effective in teaching agency leaders what a solid plan sounds like.
Loans from the central revolving fund constitute a tiny fraction of overall IT modernization spending, Graves acknowledged, but "every agency is going to have to march down this pathway in a prioritized manner. They're going to have to choose what's most important to modernize first."
Alan Thomas, the General Services Administration's commissioner for the Federal Acquisition Service, agreed.
"Most agencies that have been through the second round have said … the questions may not always be fun, but it's good," he said. "They feel like those are questions that should be asked. And then, if you're a CIO or a CFO, you go back to your agency, and say, 'You know what? I'm going to ask my folks those same kinds of questions.'"
Small Business Administration CIO Maria Roat and Social Security Administration CIO Rajive Mathur pointed to other benefits as well -- including the insights board members themselves gain by seeing all the agency proposals. Several times the board has been able to connect two organizations looking to solve similar problems, Mathur said.
For Graves, however, the most important part is getting agencies to "spend the time up front so that you're not spending it on the back end." That message is sinking in, she said.
"We have these individual proposers leaving the board meeting and high-fiving each other in the hall," Graves said. "Very seldom do people embrace a process the way people have embraced this process. And it's something that's being taken back to their agencies … to get them to the finish line."
Troy K. Schneider is editor-in-chief of FCW and GCN, as well as General Manager of Public Sector 360.
Prior to joining 1105 Media in 2012, Schneider was the New America Foundation’s Director of Media & Technology, and before that was Managing Director for Electronic Publishing at the Atlantic Media Company. The founding editor of NationalJournal.com, Schneider also helped launch the political site PoliticsNow.com in the mid-1990s, and worked on the earliest online efforts of the Los Angeles Times and Newsday. He began his career in print journalism, and has written for a wide range of publications, including The New York Times, WashingtonPost.com, Slate, Politico, National Journal, Governing, and many of the other titles listed above.
Schneider is a graduate of Indiana University, where his emphases were journalism, business and religious studies.
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