OMB seeks more specific IT spending data

Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.
 

If the Office of Management and Budget has its way, agencies' Exhibit 300s are about to get significantly more granular.

Federal Chief Enterprise Architect Scott Bernard said on April 27 that Office of Management and Budget has developed new templates and guidance that will focus on seven common categories of IT spending.

The new approach aims to break out agencies investments in IT management, IT security and compliance, data centers, compute capabilities, storage; networks and end user support. 

This standardized, category-driven approach will "help agencies get a better handle on their IT spend," said Bernard, who spoke at the Digital Government Institute's enterprise architecture event in Washington, D.C. It also will "break up some of these monolithic business cases where you see for an agency or a sub-agency one Exhibit 300 for all of their IT support areas," he noted. "That is a very hard investment to manage."

Bernard also pointed out that agency IT investment portfolios are increasingly aligned with "what industry uses," the Technology Business Management model. The TBM Council worked closely with a team of agency CIOs and other government officials in 2015 and 2016 to adapt the TBM taxonomy and other tools for public-sector use; a series of recommendations were issued last July.

While acknowledging there would be plenty of IT investments that fall outside of the seven categories, Bernard said bringing consistency to these basic IT support functions was an important start. "It’s not the exhaustive list," he said, "but these are the seven basic ones that we want to see every agency do."

Agencies will be spared at least one other data call, however. While "it is our expectation that agencies are maintaining an IT asset inventory," Bernard said, "we are not going to be asking the agencies to submit their inventory this year" to OMB, as was required last year.

"That doesn't mean you shouldn’t be doing it," he stressed, "because that's just basic good practice," and he noted that OMB could call for a specific agency's inventory if needed for a TechStat review or some other analysis.

All of this emphasis on better data, Bernard said, is aimed at tackling the "legacy IT burden" and helping agencies free up funding for modernization and innovation. "It's a shame when you’re handcuffed and three-quarters of every IT dollar -- or more -- is going to be dedicated to just operating and maintaining the legacy systems," he said. 

And while legacy IT is a longstanding concern, Bernard said the executive order and subsequent OMB guidance on government reorganization and workforce reductions bring new urgency to the problem.

"Details on [the implications of the reform plan memo] are still coming out, but we do have the beginning of an implementation dialogue," he said. "If there was ever a time when enterprise architecture could make a meaningful contribution, this would be it."

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