Roadmapping: A key tool for FITARA compliance

A technology roadmap can help agencies reap the benefits FITARA has to offer. Here are the four stages of a successful effort.

Kris van Riper is a managing director at CEB and Dylan Moses is a research analyst at CEB.

Kris van Riper (left) is government practice leader and Dylan Moses is a research analyst at CEB.

The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act requires that federal CIOs reorganize their IT departments so that those leaders will be accountable and responsible for all IT-related decisions made across their agencies. Although the changes remain a concern for many, FITARA provides government CIOs with the opportunity to develop a clearer picture of their IT portfolios.

If taken as an opportunity, FITARA could be a catalyst for more effective IT investing and portfolio management by consolidating duplicative systems, retiring legacy assets and ultimately driving federal agencies into a new era of IT efficiency.

To truly capture the benefits that the new law brings, CIOs must have visibility into current assets and must plan for technology changes that signal new investment needs and divestiture requirements. To support those collective objectives, the most successful organizations are using roadmaps to identify the current state, drive fact-based decisions and convey execution plans.

Roadmaps can also help agencies comply with the Office of Management and Budget’s mandates for FITARA — in particular, the creation and disclosure of a strategic plan to ensure compliance (which was due Aug. 15) and a strategy for implementing that plan (due Dec. 31). The act also requires annual reports on benchmarks starting in 2016. With the August deadline now behind us, all reporting agencies and their components should have submitted an assessment of their current state and an implementation plan.

CEB research has found that although roadmaps have the potential to be highly effective communication tools, 70 percent of IT executives are dissatisfied with their organization’s current efforts. Respondents cite poor visualization, data quality and cross-silo collaboration as challenges to creating effective roadmaps.

Many organizations struggle to strike the right balance between comprehensiveness and maintenance, and leading organizations use longer time horizons judiciously because they understand that overinvesting in detailed, long-term roadmaps might be a wasted effort in light of the pace of change.

Our work with hundreds of teams in developing roadmaps has revealed four critical stages for establishing a successful roadmapping program:

1. Properly scope roadmap objectives. Roadmaps that are developed without clear priorities and goals in mind will often fail to deliver value quickly enough to the IT portfolio. Instead, leading organizations determine the desired outcomes and identify relevant stakeholders before creating roadmaps.

2. Coordinate roadmap development. Poor or uncoordinated processes result in inefficiencies, bad data and slower time to benefit in roadmap creation. Federal IT organizations can ensure an efficient development process by setting standards for quality measurements, roadmapping processes and segmenting roadmap ownership.

3. Maintain and update roadmaps. Roadmaps must be maintained and updated because even the best-planned roadmaps face challenges such as changes in business priorities, advancements in technology and inefficient performance management techniques. Leading organizations avoid those problems by anticipating new demands and monitoring the roadmap’s status.

4. Share roadmaps with stakeholders. One common mistake is presenting a roadmap without context for the greater organization, thus losing stakeholder buy-in. Federal IT organizations should make artifacts available to different audiences to ensure stakeholder adoption and use.

FITARA's implementation will require focus and rigor, but federal IT leaders can navigate the complexity of their portfolios better with a concerted roadmapping effort. Whether or not your organization is subject to FITARA, investing in better roadmaps is an opportunity to improve IT governance and decision-making.

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