OMB's revised PortfolioStat process simplifies IT reporting requirements

Tuesday - 4/2/2013, 5:17am EDT

Steve VanRoekel, federal chief information officer

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The Office of Management and Budget is giving agencies less work. Yes, you heard correctly, less work.

Federal Chief Information Officer Steve VanRoekel and Jeff Zients, acting director of OMB, outlined changes to the types of reports and number of reports agencies must now submit as part of the updated PortfolioStat process. In a memo to agency heads last week, they said the goal is quality over quantity.

OMB is merging 30 different reports and data collection requirements into three. The first, due May 15, includes a progress report on agency strategic IT goals, objectives and metrics, as well as any cost savings or cost avoidances from these efforts.

"This Integrated Data Collection will draw on information previously reported under PortfolioStat, the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI), the Federal Digital Government Strategy, quarterly Federal Information Security Management Act metrics, the Federal IT Dashboard and selected human resource, financial management and procurement information requested by OMB," the memo states.

Agencies must submit this data quarterly and it will become part of the PortfolioStat process to evaluate and improve programs.

Steve VanRoekel, federal chief information officer

"What we looked for were areas within either existing statutes or existing procedures where we were getting the most value out of the reports that were coming in," VanRoekel said in an interview with Federal News Radio. "We saw the IRM plan and the enterprise roadmap were two areas where we said, most of what we want to know is here, and if we take a lot from the other ones and roll them up into these two, we can actually get pretty streamlined. We needed to do the due diligence here as much as we were asking agencies do to say, how can we reduce duplication? If you look across those 30 we were asking people for, there was actually duplication that existed there. We were often asking for the same thing or slight variations of the same thing across many of them."

OMB also wants to help agencies improve how they manage programs. VanRoekel said the Information Resource Management (IRM) strategic plan, the enterprise roadmap and the Integrated Data Collection (IDC) tool — the three parts of PortfolioStat v2 — will each play a role in setting objectives, coming up with tactics to meet those goals and then measuring how well they did in achieving those objectives.

"It's centered around the three concepts we drove — the why, the what and the results," VanRoekel said. "The why is formulated in something we call the IRM. This is called for in statute. It's a place we've had agencies do some work, but we've brought in a lot of extra stuff to integrate into one report. Agencies basically tell us what information they [need], what resources do you have and how are you going to go forward and do consolidation and drive efficiency."

He added a lot of the consolidation and efficiency work will be detailed in the enterprise roadmap. Agencies will use the IDC to tell OMB about the results of their implementation of the IRM and roadmap.

Savings, cost avoidance on track

OMB introduced PortfolioStat in March 2012 to bring agency IT spending, specifically around commodity technology such as email or collaboration tools, under a more standardized review process.

VanRoekel said PortfolioStat could save or help the government avoid spending $2.5 billion over the next three years. In the first year alone, he said agencies saved or avoided spending $300 million. OMB estimated agencies could consolidate about 100 IT systems based on the work done under the first version of PortfolioStat.

"Up on the IT dashboard, we'll be producing a list of the areas where those consolidations are coming," he said. "I think PortfolioStat represents the tip of the iceberg kind of example of where we could go with both the savings side and, maybe more importantly in some cases, the optimization and mission side of federal IT."

Under version 2 of PortfolioStat, OMB built on the progress agencies made over the last year.

Along with consolidating data collection, the administration brought several initiatives under one umbrella.

VanRoekel said PortfolioStat v2 now includes some of the strategic sourcing and the Digital Government Strategy efforts.

But it's the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI) that is seeing the biggest changes.

Initially, OMB set a goal of closing 40 percent — 1,200 of the 3,133 — data centers that agencies currently use.

But under PortfolioStat v2, OMB is moving the goal of the effort away from just pure closings to closings and optimization of energy usage, facility usage, storage, virtualization and cost per operating system.

"What I was noticing is that a few things were happening. One is we weren't incentivizing the right behaviors by just focusing on closures," VanRoekel said. "If you literally tell someone that has two data centers that are next door to each other, 'I need you to really only have one data center,' some people may take down the wall between the data centers that turns two into one, or pick up a lot of small data centers and move them into a big room through a forklift and consolidate that way. When at the end of the day, those data centers aren't using fewer resources. They aren't providing better services to constituents inside the department or to Americans on the outside. They aren't optimized and using [less] electricity."

He said closures will come, maybe even faster, as agencies optimize data centers.

OMB wants the FDCCI task force to develop the metrics for both "core" and "non-core" data centers.

VanRoekel said core data centers are those that score at least a 6 out of 9 on the measures focused on the optimization side, such as amount of power per square foot, utilization percentages, cost per instance of operating system and if the agency independently meters the data center.

"What that does is [incentivize] the agency to score higher. We will evolve those metrics over time to ensure we are creating the spirit of continuous improvements," he said. "We then will look at how do you then take the non-core data centers, those that don't satisfy six of these nine, and think about how do you either move them up to core or move them into a core data center ... We're getting much more diligent in measuring and the focus is much more on optimizing."

VanRoekel said the change in the data center initiative was not because of pressure from some in Congress. There has been some concern as to whether some lawmakers would balk when agencies tried to close buildings in their districts because it would mean a loss of jobs.

"The conversations I've had with Congress are really about how are we providing better service to the American people, how are we building better productivity inside agencies," he said. "A highly inefficient data center isn't a great shining star for any congressional district or the government."

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