One of the biggest hurdles to Federal agency adoption of Technology Business Management (TBM) practices may be the degree of cultural change necessary to get everyone – including IT, finance, and top leadership – on board for the effort, said Ken Rogers, deputy CIO at the State Department, on Wednesday, May 15, at the Apptio Federal TBM Summit.

TBM appears to be taking firm hold with agency IT leaderships across the Federal government, but for those not yet familiar, it is a data science that provides a standardized way to categorize IT costs, technologies, resources, applications, and services, in order to better inform data-driven decision making for IT investments.

It has found strong proponents in top leadership including Federal CIO Suzette Kent and numerous agency CIO suites, and the endorsement last year of Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney. He announced in August 2018 that OMB remained “committed” to reducing compliance burdens with the existing IT Capital Planning Investment Control process, and planned to “align it with the Federal budget process while promoting Technology Business Management (TBM) across the Federal Government.”

Speaking at Wednesday’s event, Rogers said the agency’s initial steps to put TBM in place took time, but are paying off. He said the State Department has spent a couple of years working with TBM “trying to understand what kind of problems we are trying to solve,” and to more fully articulate the agency’s IT portfolio.

Important steps along the way have included initial training of about 120 “IT investment owners” within the agency, mapping out “change management” strategies, and compiling investment data and capital data across the State Department’s annual IT budget of about $2.5 billion.

Central to the larger TBM adoption effort is sorting out the “cost problem” of IT versus the “budget problem” of IT, and using better data on costs versus budgets to “influence and shape” agency IT budgets going forward.

Another requirement in that process, he said, is making sure that funding is supporting “mission-focused IT,” rather than just pushing for further technical operations efficiency, which he said is a good goal but may not always support agency mission.

But the “heavy lift of TBM is the cultural change,” and pushing through “the cultural hurdles of the organization,” he said. Components of that effort, he said, have included building relationships at the bureau level within the agency, establishing initial footholds with financial staffs, and getting a better handle on acquisition processes.

Among other benefits, Rogers said that TBM also has been useful to the State Department for addressing some of the elements of FITARA (Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act), especially regarding the MEGABYTE Act.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.