FDA discovers portfolio management benefits

Food and Drug Administration officials have learned that using a portfolio management tool alone will not instantly yield smarter information technology investments. But a tool can spur decision-makers to collect information and set up processes that will help them use it to make better spending choices.

FDA officials adopted portfolio management about two years ago as a way to improve their Exhibit 300 submissions, which they were preparing manually during the budget process, and to find out whether they were spending their investment dollars wisely, said James Rinaldi, the FDA's chief information officer. Business cases are submitted to the Office of Management and Budget via the Exhibit 300 form, which is used for major capital spending plans.

The FDA uses a portfolio management tool called ProSight Portfolio from ProSight. The tool works with the agency's enterprise architecture tool, Computas' Metis, which ensures that portfolio management and enterprise architecture are in sync, Rinaldi said. Agency officials also have strengthened their project management capability to track agency projects better, he added.

FDA officials use budgeting software from ProSight to help them complete Exhibits 300 and 53, and they use reporting software to meet Federal Information Security Management Act requirements.

The result, Rinaldi said, is an organized and higher quality Exhibit 300 and a more disciplined approach to portfolio management. "The tool gives you a reason to track things better," he said. "It allows us to reinforce the idea across the enterprise that these things are taken more seriously than" we have in the past."

Portfolio management has allowed FDA officials to get a better handle on how their IT systems support various business activities. That insight allowed them to reduce their Exhibit 300 submissions from 31 to 21. They determined that some systems did not need an exhibit, while others were rolled into consolidated forms that more accurately reflected how different systems were related.

But using a tool alone was not enough, Rinaldi said. The agency now has a structure and governance process that allows system stakeholders and senior executives to develop more informed opinions about how to spend IT budgets.

Now that FDA officials have moved from using word processing software and spreadsheets to portfolio management tools and processes, "we spend a lot less time on the basics," said Rod Bond, director of the strategy and planning staff in the Office of the CIO.

"The tool allows us to take the goals of many different projects and map them back to our strategic plan," he said. Now, they can look at their investments and see whether they have the right projects in the pipeline to meet goals for the agency's future.

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