Can TBM make IT investment reporting less painful?

Some agencies are wary of more data calls, but OMB leaders say the Technology Business Management framework could provide better insights and streamline compliance efforts.

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For more than a quarter-century, federal agencies have tracked their investments via the Capital Planning and Investment Control process. Now the Trump administration wants the Technology Business Management framework -- a detailed system for tracking IT investments and measuring the business outcomes they deliver -- to be embraced governmentwide by 2022. TBM is data-intensive, and there is some agency concern that it could be yet another time-consuming and duplicative data call.

At a July 11 event hosted by the TBM Council, federal CIO Suzette Kent worked to assuage those concerns. Delivering the required CPIC reports is "an important set of activities, but that's a significant work effort," she acknowledged. "So we're trying to begin to integrate and tie [CPIC and TBM] together so that information we're gathering supports efforts in a unified way."

Kent also stressed the foundational role TBM is expected to play "in the broader President’s Management Agenda, and across the top of all the things that we’re trying to accomplish" -- including transparency, IT modernization and shifting the federal workforce from low-value to high-value work.

"There is a lot of work in the TBM space that may feel … like it's down in the weeds," Kent said, but "the effort and the focus are about driving outcomes."

General Services Administration CIO David Shive, who has been an early adopter of TBM , acknowledged that today's government IT executives "live in a compliance-rich environment. Some of those compliance activities provide value to us as manager, and some of them most certainly do not." But TBM's focus on business outcomes can be tremendously helpful to agency CIOs as they work to wring the most value out of limited resources, Shive argued: "If you think this is just a White House [compliance] initiative, you’re probably thinking about this at the wrong level."

That said, Department of Veterans Affairs' Rick Chandler acknowledged that "right now there are two levels of work."

"We need to start looking at what we can turn off if you have TBM, said Chandler, who until recently was chief financial officer for VA’s Office of Information and Technology and now helps run VA's National Cemetery Administration. The hope, he added, is to get to the point where "we’d just be able to run reports from TBM tools that would be able to replace CPIC and get the answers." While TBM "will not replace CPIC in the near term," he said, "We’re getting close to the tipping point."

Deputy federal CIO Margie Graves, agreed, noting that OMB already has trimmed 83 data elements from CPIC because "we can now get a report from other aspects of TBM."

Those efforts to streamline will continue, she promised. For 20 years with CPIC, Graves said, "there was never any taking off — there was only adding on. That is not an acceptable posture to adopt. "

OMB also is pushing to improve the source data itself, working with federal contractors to ensure their bills to the federal agencies come with detailed coding that is in a TBM-friendly format.

"Our vision is that this becomes more automated [so that] people are lifted up out of the data calls to the actual analysis," Graves said.

Kent made the same point. To inform smarter decision-making, she said, "we want to streamline the reporting of IT, but want to use technology to do that."

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