Cost savings, increased efficiency and improved service: These are all terms bandied about as agencies work to meet the administration’s Lines of Business mandates — targeted at consolidating everything from systems infrastructure and financial processing to human resources management and information technology security.
But with the addition of new budget, geospatial and infrastructure LOBs, another set of terms might become relevant for CIOs: headaches, missed deadlines and confusion. That need not be the case with enough planning and a clear set of expectations and goals. That planning needs to involve four processes: identifying legacy systems that support services available through LOB initiatives; cataloging when contracts tied to those systems expire and calculating the cost to maintain the systems; setting migration plans based on the inventory information; and evaluating mission goals against specific centers’ programs.
The potential financial benefits for agencies make the efforts worthwhile: A recent analysis by the Government Accountability Office suggests that through the Financial Management and Human Resources Management LOBs, the government will recoup more than $5 billion over the course of a decade. The figure for the IT Infrastructure Optimization LOB is upwards of $20 billion.
The Office of Management and Budget points out that once agencies migrate services from internal data centers to shared-services centers, the shuttering of systems will produce further savings. For each of the LOBs, agency teams have begun selecting shared-services centers — or as they are sometimes called, centers of excellence.
The ultimate hope is that the LOBs will let agencies focus on core mission activities rather than expend valuable resources in providing common, back-office and support functions.
John McManus, new Commerce Department chief technology officer and deputy CIO, has had the opportunity to experience LOB transition work at two agencies: Commerce and his former employer, NASA. At the space agency, where McManus was also CTO, the LOB adoption process was well under way. The agency’s long-term approach, he says, emphasized aligning mission goals with cost-cutting approaches. To launch its effort, NASA did an analysis of where a service and its supporting systems stood within a natural life cycle. Then a team of NASA officials looked at the cost factors to decide whether and when a service would migrate to a new LOB system.
“You want to find out where you are with regard to the end of the service’s life cycle, so you get the full return,” he says. “But you need to start that planning two or three years ahead to make that transition run smoothly.” Such planning was needed, for example, to allow NASA to transition from 11 different payroll systems, run redundantly, to a lone model run by the Interior Department’s National Business Center, one of the financial management shared-services centers.
But simplifying and integrating multiple systems, each with their own processes and subsystems, to a single process and data model often involves more than simply embracing a new technology. People involved with the transition must define the services and functions a new LOB provider would take over, which legacy systems will be replaced, and whether the chosen shared-services center has a mature and well-defined process to adopt the services.
OMB doesn’t expect that all agencies will dump existing or even antiquated systems immediately, but they must begin preparing for the move to the shared-services centers’ systems, says Karen Evans, administrator for e-government and IT at OMB. “We are asking agencies to transition to a LOB-provided solution where and when it makes sense during the life cycle of the investment,” she says. “Ultimately, all agencies will either be providing or using a shared service; however, we are working with agencies to establish transition plans that align to the extent possible and in a cost-effective manner with the life cycles of existing investments.”
At Commerce, McManus says, the LOB transition has already begun. “The big thing right now is to make sure we have each of the program areas engaged on the appropriate level, from a service or capability standpoint, and to make sure we have good alignment.”
On the flip side of an LOB effort is Michael Smith of the Homeland Security Department, the program lead for the Information Systems Security LOB. The ISS LOB focuses on reducing redundancies in security services, such as training and awareness programs. For instance, there’s no need for multiple agencies to create, manage and run these, he says.
Through the ISS, the government can establish a security awareness baseline, “a minimum set of training requirements, which will ensure that all employees and contractors utilizing a federal information system are aware of their cybersecurity responsibilities,” Smith says.
When preparing transition strategies, Smith says the trick for CIOs is to align their agencies’ plans and long-term systems goals closely with the parameters set by each LOB team. At DHS, “the program management office has provided a clear framework for implementing the ISS LOB. These guidelines provide goals and objectives, governance structure, roles and responsibilities, and timelines,” Smith says. “Additionally, OMB has asked agencies to include their plans for implementing the ISS LOB and applicable shared solutions in their e-gov implementation plans and provide measurable milestones quarterly.”
One important opportunity that program managers and IT chiefs need to take advantage of is simply participating in LOB projects, Smith suggests. There are many volunteer opportunities, and CIOs across government have been making key staff members available for participation on ISS work groups, he says. That’s smart because agencies then can “raise concerns, and they have a venue to collaborate on and share potential resolutions,” says Smith.
So far, according to OMB, agencies are on track to meet agreed-upon LOB goals. With regard to the HR and Financial Management LOBs, many small agencies have migrated to shared-service centers. Additional migrations, as well as competitions to select vendor-run, shared-services centers, are expected to continue into 2008.
To help CIOs manage the LOB work within the context of their broader IT workload, OMB in December released Version 1 of the Federal Transition Framework. The framework consolidates guidance for agencies on policies and best practices for any type of multiple-agency effort, such as an LOB migration, the Internet Protocol Version 6 cutover or the Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 mandates. The framework, which establishes the link between agencies’ enterprise architectures and cross-agency projects, includes in-depth information about each LOB initiative.
Even with such guidance, CIOs negotiating the LOB landscape must keep refining their plans and transition strategies to meet changes in programs and missions, Evans says. These are not static, she points out. “Without first knowing their needs, it will be difficult for an agency to determine how a line of business solution can provide equal or better service.”