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U.S. Federal Agencies, IT Governance and the Cloud

JudyRedman ‎09-02-2011 12:02 PM - edited ‎09-02-2011 01:25 PM


_davidWray_large.jpgBy David Wray, Chief Technology Officer, HP Software Federal Professional Services

(As CTO of HP’s Federal Professional Service Organization, David consults with U.S. federal agencies, provides CIO advisory services, runs workshops on portfolio and project management, and helps develop capability roadmaps for improving functionality over time. David has over 25 years of experience in designing and implementing software solutions. For the past 10 years, he has helped Federal agencies implement solutions for CPIC, budget formulation and execution, project and portfolio management, acquisition, and risk and compliance solutions.)


In alignment with the US Federal CIO’s IT Reform Plan announced in December 2010, federal agencies are beginning to fund and kickoff required shared service initiatives to meet established performance goals as set forth by the Obama Administration.  Agencies must move at least one application to the cloud by December of 2011, in addition to implementing a “cloud first” policy to assure that when appropriate, future applications are cloud-based. (For more information on CloudFirst, I encourage you to read this related post, Tips, tools and template to draft a cloud computing strategy, courtesy of the federal governmentAs is the case with the private sector, the promise of significant cost-savings and increased efficiencies by outsourcing services to the cloud is driving this initiative. 


Gaining a solid understanding of which business functions should be outsourced and those that should not is critical for successful cloud and other outsourcing initiatives. For example, when implementing a private  or hybrid cloud, it’s unwise to outsource the business function of IT Governance.  In fact, the ability for an agency to govern and manage IT must be enhanced and streamlined before moving to a shared service model.  This is particularly true for data and metrics that track the performance of application and infrastructure assets.   Without metrics, service level agreements, asset management and performance tracking, many federal agencies would not be able to govern IT, provide incentives for further cost reduction, or openly recomplete services to other service providers.  Infrastructure, support and business services can still be outsourced, but agencies should never lose visibility into the metrics and cost of providing their IT services.  



You can’t manage what you don’t measure


Management guru Peter Drucker once stated, “What gets measured gets managed.”   Although his statement was in reference to business management, it most certainly applies to the governance and management of IT.  In fact, because the management of IT is dynamic with defined system capabilities and dependencies, the ability to gain real-time visibility into the current health is essential for management, governance and long-term planning. 


In my experience, organizations that have outsourced IT Governance along with infrastructure and business services struggle to manage effectively because they lack real-time access to the detailed asset, inventory, capacity and staff resource information required to run their business.   Most often, this information is considered proprietary or the intellectual property of their service providers. 


Without such information, comparing alternative service delivery and pricing models becomes very difficult. Further, understanding how IT costs align to business services is almost impossible, as is the ability to enable charge backs to the business units and right-size capacity with performance. Disaster recovery planning may also be significantly hindered without the data gathered through effective IT governance.


IT Reform plan provides direction


The IT Reform Plan offers guidance on how agencies can increase their ability to govern and manage IT.   Part I is designed to help agencies leverage light technologies (non-custom standalone applications) and shared services.  Part II offers guidance on how to improve IT Governance and Risk Management.  


To get started, I recommend that agencies make sure that they have the ability to sustain quantifiable metrics that enable the efficient and effect management of IT.  The only way to sustain metrics is to have repeatable and reliable processes, tools and people organized to capture and aggregate metrics periodically.  Additionally, I’ve often seen that when organizations begin to institute meaningful metrics, business and operational performance improves.  Such information also offers agencies a powerful tool for improving strategic decision-making.


Ideally, an IT Governance System that can proactively manage and measure IT should be operational before kicking off new transformational projects, especially cloud projects that require organizational change and radically new service models that most likely will have significant customer impact.  If agencies outsource IT Governance to service providers they will not have the data, management team and business rules in place to optimize and manage IT. When considering a “cloud first” strategy, makes sure you also fund an “IT governance first” one as well.  


Related links:


About the Author


Judy Redman has been writing about all areas of technology for more than 20 years.

Nadhan on ‎09-06-2011 03:05 PM

Thank you for sharing this, David.  Your article is symptomatic of the forces that stretch the CIO of today  -- the US Federal CIO being no exception.  While it is true that the mandate is for agencies to move at least one application to the Cloud, it is very important that they move the Right application as outlined in the Cloud Transformation Bill of Rights.

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