During the past several years, OMB has taken a number of steps to eliminate waste and duplication in how agencies acquire and deliver IT services across mission, support, and commodity areas. This IT Shared Services Strategy is part of that effort, and is intended to work in concert with improvements that are being made in other areas of IT governance, including strategic planning, capital planning, operations, security, enterprise architecture, program management, and human capital management. The following are major areas of new IT policy that Federal Agencies must integrate as they create a Shared-First culture.
OMB introduced the PortfolioStat process19 for performing comprehensive reviews of their IT investment portfolio. The PortfolioStat process includes tools to use in analyzing individual investments and categories of investments to help in identifying waste and duplication and to prioritize where actions need to be taken to consolidate or terminate investments, and where there are opportunities to establish shared-approaches to IT service delivery. OMB will work in partnership with Federal Agencies to implement the PortfolioStat process and tools.
Given the rapid pace of change in IT, it’s not enough to just build solutions that meet the government’s current needs, Federal Agencies must look more at future requirements to ensure that IT solutions are flexible enough meet those requirements too whenever possible. This is why the OMB has launched the “Future-First” initiative that is reflected in The Common Approach to Federal Enterprise Architecture20 (Common Approach) which will help the Federal Government begin to continuously develop business and technology architectures that better prepare agencies for the future. Future-First is a set of principles for agencies to use when implementing the Common Approach and embarking on planning, development, and modernization efforts. OMB has identified an initial set of principles that will evolve as use of the Common Approach advances across Federal Agencies. Each IT shared service offering must have a business and technology architecture that fits the Agency’s operating model, supports Future-First principles, and conforms with Federal law and guidance. Future-First architectural design principles are summarized as follows:
- Multiple consumers for each service;
- Modular development (big-to-little) of re-usable components (little-to-big);
- Process standardization, minimal customization;
- Web-based solutions with standardized application interfaces;
- Object reuse, machine-readable data, standard data formats (e.g., XML, semantic RDF);
- Cloud-based application hosting and virtualization of servers;
- Security and privacy controls, continuous monitoring of systems and services;
- Configuration management and version control for systems and services.
Future-Ready Digital Government
Innovation in IT continues to transform how the Federal Government operates and as such OMB is developing a comprehensive approach to building a future-ready digital government.21 This strategy promotes the increased use of mobile computing and communications platforms, engaging the public as partners in developing innovative digital services, adopting new standards for making government information open and machine-readable (by default), and using web services and metadata tagging to enhance the value and utility of Federal Government data. The Digital Government strategy also promotes the ability for Federal Agencies to make data-driven decisions about the success and usability of their websites by embedding web traffic analytics and customer satisfaction measurement tools, and applying industry-standard ratings for mobile applications to deliver better insight into the performance of digital services beyond the web space. To support this, Federal Agencies will need to establish an effective governance structure and specific, measurable goals for delivering better digital services at a lower cost.
Other Policy Considerations
In addition to IT policies that OMB has recently released, a number of prior policies are highly relevant to Federal Agency implementation of the IT Shared Services Strategy, including:
The Federal Cloud Computing Strategy22 states that “When evaluating options for new IT deployments, OMB will require that agencies default to cloud-based solutions whenever a secure, reliable, cost-effective cloud option exists.” This IT Shared Services Strategy and the associated policy guidelines similarly require agencies to default to a shared solution when opportunities for consolidation exist. Cloud-First and Shared-First concepts and policies are intended to work in tandem. The Federal Government’s continuing move toward cloud-based IT solutions will serve as a catalyst for the broader adoption of IT shared services.
Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative
The Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI) aims to achieve the following goals by requiring Federal Agencies to reduce waste and duplication in their data center assets, to include:
- Implementing “Green IT” by reducing the energy consumption and real estate footprint of Federal Government data centers;
- Reducing the cost of data center hardware, software, and operations;
- Enhancing the overall IT security posture of the Federal Government; and
- Increasing the use of more efficient computing platforms and technologies.
The Shared-First approach, PortfolioStat process, and Common Approach methods are intended to support data center consolidation and optimization by enabling Federal Agencies to identify where duplication and excess capacity exist and to create new cloud-based approaches to intra- or inter-agency IT infrastructure shared service delivery.
Modular development refers to an industry-proven approach to reducing risk and accelerating the pace of implementing IT resources, including applications, systems, websites, mobile platforms, and cloud computing environments. This is accomplished by executing IT projects in modules (also called increments) that support rapid development methods, iteration with key stakeholders, and sequenced phases that produce increasing levels of functionality. Each project module is roughly six months in duration and is designed to deliver specific capabilities that create a foundation and then increasing levels of functionality. Modular development approaches support Future-First architecture principles by dividing IT development projects into components (going from “big-to-little”) and by using object-oriented methods to create reusable IT components that can be shared within or between Federal Agencies (going from “little-to-big”). The key point of modular development is the creation of reusable modules in short time increments, and making those components discoverable by Federal Agencies across government for future use.
Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative
The Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative23 (FSSI) is a government-wide acquisition service that leverages the Federal Government’s consolidated buying power to acquire and manage IT resources at lower cost. FSSI objectives are complementary to Shared-First concepts and three current FSSI acquisition programs address commodity IT services: print management, wireless/mobile, and software licensing. In addition to FSSI, a number of Federal Agencies have developed enterprise-wide strategic sourcing initiatives to acquire other types of commodity IT services, including laptops, desktop PCs, website management, email, and help desks. Federal Agencies are encouraged to use government-wide FSSI acquisition vehicles or their own enterprise-wide strategic sourcing vehicles to lower costs and promote a Shared-First operating culture.