Driving Digital Government with IT Cost Savings, Optimizations and Services Delivery

Leaders in digital government are facing an unprecedented time. Irma Fabular, Senior Director Analyst with Forrester Research says, “COVID-19 has amplified the need for government leaders globally to quickly mobilize resources to respond to, mitigate and recover from crisis situations.” Amidst the current economic, societal and health concerns that this virus has brought upon government agencies, public sector IT and finance leaders are needing to focus on how best to identify IT cost savings, optimize current operating budgets, and reallocate spend toward mission-critical public services.

Against this backdrop, hundreds of leaders from federal agencies, state and local agencies, and education bodies joined Apptio for our virtual Public Sector TBM Summit 2020, where we discussed how to implement IT financial management best practices during this uncertain time. One of the video panels focused on how Technology Business Management (TBM) is enabling digital transformation by fortifying partnerships with mission stakeholders, and surfacing valuable insights for data-driven decision-making that frees up spend, reduces waste and funds new impactful initiatives.

Meet our panelists:

Emerge public sector summit


Tim Argabrite, Supervisory Management & Program Analyst, FBI

The mission of the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division (CJIS) is to provide the right criminal justice information to the right people at the right time. Abiding by this mission allows the CJIS to demonstrate how the U.S. population and civil liberties are being preserved and protected. TBM is helping CJIS’s IT management section try to solve two major challenges. The first is ensuring that IT resources are truly aligned to the priorities and missions of its customers. The second is ensuring delivery of those IT services in the most efficient manner possible. CJIS has adopted the “run IT like a business” mindset, which recognizes that every dollar enables an increase in value delivery to customers. For the FBI, TBM has been fundamental to understanding where IT spend is and where it’s going and how it affects the mission of its partners.

Using the TBM Taxonomy to Empower Partners

Q. On the topic of managing technology specifically to your mission goals, what outcomes have you seen thus far, and what do you expect to see as you go down this journey?

A. From a TBM perspective, we’ve achieved commonality underneath each distinct value stream where we had discontinuity before. We didn’t really have the ability to understand, “Are we truly aligning to our strategic missions?” Achieving and understanding the value streams, and what our strategic missions are, and having commonality with the taxonomy underneath every single one of these strategic value streams, has enabled us to begin to have that transparency and data to understand where we are. Before we were working hard, delivering value. Everybody was trying to do their best, but without that empowered data, that consistent data across the organization. From an IT delivery perspective, we’re starting to talk in terms of the TBM Taxonomy. Our business partners are beginning to understand the taxonomy as we talk them through that common language. So, it really is about empowering individuals with information.

Win Buy-in by Demonstrating the TBM Value

Q. What are some of the challenges you may be encountering with TBM, ranging from people, process, or data systems?

A. From a people and process perspective, one of the first things we did in the IT management section was call up our financial management section. It was so imperative that we have that conversation, that partnership, with our financial management. Talking in terms of TBM from an IT perspective was new language to them. The information, from a transparency perspective, really is what won over hearts and minds, especially from a financial management perspective. We were able to provide better data than what we have ever provided in the way of IT spend — where it is and where it’s going. Now our financial management group has made significant changes to their investment management process and adopted TBM for all IT spend.

Consistent, Collaborative, and Consensus

Q. How are you collaborating around TBM now and what is your general view on partnering with the different organizations? Has TBM help you with that?

A. We kind of took TBM out of the box. We went slowly into this starting with the bottom layers of the taxonomy, getting consistency and consensus across all of our value streams, including our financial partners, and said, okay, we’re going to start talking in these terms. There’s been a lot of conversations that we’ve had to go back over, but we’ve always come back to the basics of adopting TBM as it is so we can use it to compare ourselves to other agencies, other entities, that are using it. We have better data and better information than what we’ve had in the past and I think the organization would agree. We’re just trying to use the data to collaborate and it really is helping us.

Follow the TBM Model for IT Cost Management

Q. What advice do you have for those starting out?

A. Focus on relationships. It’s about talking to people, and giving the “why” and “how” of TBM is valuable. Once you achieve those relationships and demonstrate the value, then people are more than willing to jump in and provide information and insight. We all have different perspectives. We all have different knowledge and skills. What I see in TBM is the ability to gain that single sheet of music that has a finance view, a business view, and an IT View, and it’s to be used by everybody. So, focus on relationships, but also start with the data that you have. Start at the bottom, get consistency, and then innovate as you go up.

Sonny Bhagowalia, Deputy Assistant Commissioner & Deputy CIO, Office of IT, US CBP

The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has 60,000 employees and one of the largest law enforcement organizations in the world. To accomplish its mission – protecting America’s borders and facilitating lawful international trade and travel – its office of Information Technology must deliver and maintain a robust and secure IT infrastructure that can process millions of travelers and cargo containers annually. The challenge for CBP is therefore making sure everything is appropriately funded, allocated, and responsive to the mission. TBM helps ensure CBP’s technology refresh and modernization takes place, even when budget needs are reprioritized. TBM also gives CBP IT decision makers a deeper transparency, enabling a defensible budget and the ability to prioritize requirements when funding changes. With end-of-life infrastructure, CBP uses the TBM methodology to looks at assets in terms of the federal CIO framework, enabling better planning and insight into a technology refresh.

Leverage TBM to Achieve IT Cost Optimization

Q. The CBP process over 400 million travelers and 2.8 billion containers annually, 2,000 different sites … what problems are you specifically addressing with TBM?

A. TBM adoption has provided CBP with a firm foundation so that we can manage our IT operations and cost data. The structured data now supports us with the evaluation and management of cost-effectiveness and prioritization of unfunded requirements. This is a common process in the government; it allows better rationalization, advanced data analytics, and visualization so you can better enable field operators to achieve their mission. We have been leveraging the practice of TBM to achieve three overarching objectives:

  • Optimize the technology portfolio and the cost.
  • Prioritize and manage IT requirements and spending so TBM adoption will help CBP comply with IT capital planning and investment control guidance.
  • Communicate the value and impact of IT to internal or external customers.

The Value of Transparency

Q. It sounds like you have a good relationship with the finance side. What challenges did you overcome?

A. Taxonomy was always a challenge. The CIO looks at it from one perspective in terms of how we have programs and projects that meet mission needs and strategic plans and alignment, and then the budget side looks at other things. Sometimes those things were a little different in the chart of accounts and taxonomy. I think that is really an aspirational goal that we’re all trying for. The federal government spends about 90 billion in IT, so most of the cabinet departments, and some of the large agencies like ours, have a little bit of challenge trying to make sure they turn this thing fully around.

Cammy Webster, Sr. Program Manager, Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO), State of Washington

Washington State has a single TBM program, which is providing insight into where technology investment is happening in the state. This means legislative members know they are getting the best results with the funding they’ve approved across multiple agencies. Washing State’s TBM program, legislatively, has a responsibility to report all spend in the state. The 105 agencies report through the program, providing information to key stakeholders on their spend by cost pool. Also, the 45 agencies that are in the technology business management program report up at the technology-tower level. With transparency in place for several years, Washington state’s current focus is on providing insight into major IT projects.

Efficiency Leads to Cost Savings

Q. Talk us through how you think about managing technology and aligning to the mission goals.

A. Working with 45 different agencies, what we have found is they all have a different need. We’ve operationalized being able to report at the cost-pool and the technology-tower level. It’s very easy for every agency to do that. We have built four different kickstart programs to meet the needs of what the different agencies were coming to us for. We are now able to provide benchmarking agency-to-agency, and we can also do it government-to-government with the interactive benchmarking solution that’s in place.

A lot of agencies are doing large-scale modernizations and looking at eliminating legacy applications. For agencies that have advanced application rationalization through the TBM program — they’re actually going in and looking at applications that are associated with this new modernization effort and seeing which of the older applications are carrying the highest percentage of the cost. They are making priority decisions on shutting down those sooner so that they can start realizing larger cost savings at a more optimal time frame. So those are some of the things that we’re doing right now.

Why Adopt Standards and Taxonomy?

Q. What sort of challenges have you had along the way?

A. For agencies starting out, or for bureaus that are starting out, my thoughts are, “Don’t go through some of the things that we went through.” When we initially started our program, we did not have a strong partnership with our financial counterpart. We changed that when we did a reboot of the program in 2016. So, don’t be afraid to start over. What has won our key stakeholders over is we’ve adopted standards. Originally when we went out, we felt we were different and unique and put out custom taxonomy. When we rebooted the program, we went with adopting the TBM Council standards, and then we partnered with Office of Financial Management.

Read how practicing TBM can turn IT budget cuts into funded mission IT projects

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