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3 things federal CIOs can do to optimize their application portfolios


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


(David Wray 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.)


Federal CIOs face a ticking clock this spring. As part of the federal IT Reform Plan, by June 12 they’re supposed to show the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that they’ve reviewed their application portfolios and they’ve turned around or terminated one-third of all underperforming IT investments.


I recently wrote about the steps CIOs can take to gain control of IT. Today I want to look at one aspect of this – portfolio management. No matter where you are in meeting the OMB’s deadline, there are three steps you can take to optimize your IT portfolio:

  1. Embrace data-driven performance reviews
  2. Use tools to manage your application portfolio, weeding out inefficiencies and duplication
  3. Take a big-picture view that enables you to make decisions on what projects add value to the business


Let’s look at these steps in depth.


Embrace data-driven performance reviews

IT Reform calls for agency CIOs to conduct “TechStat” reviews of their IT investments. These are face-to-face sessions where  agency leadership sit down and look at program performance data and come up with a concrete plan of action.


With TechStats, federal CIOs are taking the same data driven approach to IT performance that their counterparts in the commercial space are embracing; however, unlike their commercial counterparts most of their metrics are qualitative not quantitative.


As we’ve been seeing in the private sector, to truly transform IT, you need visibility into all aspects of IT performance. One way to get this is by using a tool such as the HP Executive Scorecard, which was specifically designed for the CIO/CFO, to get quantifiable and qualitative performance metrics. The scorecard functions as a single pane of glass that gives transparency into IT performance and execution, allowing you to see when programs are not performing as expected. Use a performance system to track key performance indicators and set a cycle of continuous improvement.


Manage your application portfolio

Whether you’ve already gone through a TechStat review or are preparing for one, reviewing data is only one part of the process. To meet the aggressive goals of IT Reform, CIOs must also undertake application portfolio management (APM) and transition to new consumption model for IT that is service based.


The OMB has directed federal CIOs to rationalize redundant applications, consolidate data centers and move to cloud-based technologies. Doing this ultimately reduces the cost of IT by eliminating duplication, optimizing infrastructure and reducing the cost of IT services. Agencies need to start by assessing and prioritizing which applications to consolidate and which to modernize.  APM software, coupled with asset and service management applications can enable agencies to dynamically discover applications and greatly help with what-if scenario analysis.


Make decisions on what adds value

Lastly, reviewing IT metrics is useful only insofar as you take that information and map it to business goals. Project and portfolio management (PPM) enables CIOs to decide which projects add value to the business and most importantly which ones  are  not.


When I talk to federal IT leaders, I like to explain how HP went through this very same process as part of its data center consolidation. Using the HP PPM tool, IT managers at HP conducted a strategic exercise to examine the overall application and infrastructure portfolio. The result was that the number of IT projects got cut in half, and over 81 data centers consolidated generating tremendous cost savings.  Moreover, the selection of new IT efforts was ruthlessly scrutinized, freeing up resources that enabled HP to reduce the cycle time for new enhancement request to under 90 days.


I realize that for agency CIOs enacting these steps may be more difficult than it is in the private sector, and some of these changes may need to take place in incremental steps. But the overall principles hold true. To optimize their IT portfolios, CIOs must leverage quantitative performance metrics combined with APM and PPM tools, not simply conduct qualitative reviews.


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How do Fed agencies categorize "underperforming"? Obviously revenue or profit are not widely used as measures (unless we're talking about parking inspectors and traffic cameras in the area I live, they seem to be money making machines if the camera flashes and parking tickets on windows are anything to go by!).


More seriously, how would a Fed/Public Sector CIO know if they're trimming dead wood or the next breakthrough in waiting?




Thanks for your comment.  Actually as part of the IT Reform Initiative, federal agencies are required to establish internal measures to assess program/project health.  The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), has provided guidance to agencies on how to conduct technical status reviews, and what qualifies as underperforming, but agencies are required to have their own measurement process in place by June of this year.


Many agencies have conducted technical status reviews or “tech-stats." The results of these have been published on   


Don’t hesitate to reach out with more questions/comments. From my experience with working with agencies, a good performance measurement of IT investments should include financial as well as strategic/business alignment, risk, schedule, security and enterprise architecture criteria. This ensures that all stakeholder interests are considered. Of course, leveraging a portfolio scenario/what-if analysis tool configured with specific criteria can also greatly help with portfolio optimization and/or application rationalization.


Best Regards



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