Accenture Federal Services partnered with AGA recently to survey senior leaders involved in technology-related decision-making in government agencies. Discussions shed light on the current condition of agency-wide communication and collaboration, challenges faced when implementing new technology and how recent acquisition reform addresses these challenges.
Agency representatives said that the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) codifies several existing informal processes, and results in a positive effect on C-suite collaboration and agency IT strategic planning efforts. However, they noted that integrating new technologies into agency legacy portfolios is a challenge, due to financial constraints, skillset gaps and resistance to change.
During a time of fiscal austerity and stagnant budgets, government agencies face growing pressure to improve performance and realize cost savings. To do so, federal executives turn to information technology (IT) to streamline business processes and use resources more efficiently. The Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), enacted in December 2014, supports such activities, and calls for agency executives to adopt a more coordinated approach to technology acquisition and implementation.
Accenture Federal Services partnered with AGA to examine collaboration techniques used by today’s C-suite executives, and provide insight into federal IT investment practices—from sourcing technologies to deployment. The study team met with finance, IT and acquisition leaders across an array of federal agencies to identify successful collaboration practices, common challenges faced when investing in IT and current trends in federal IT strategy.
The majority of agencies interviewed noted that FITARA has had little impact on their current governance processes. Many said only minor changes were necessary to conform to FITARA’s baseline requirements, such as formal documentation of their communication framework, or small adjustments to their budgeting and acquisition processes.
However, when asked about expected benefits of the legislation, all executives noted new or stronger relationships among key agency stakeholders. Multiple participants mentioned the ability to more easily identify areas to create synergies, remove duplicate efforts and gain efficiencies. Many stated that deeper involvement across the organization’s leadership further enables stakeholders to support the overall mission of the agency, as roles and resource allocation become more transparent.
For those departments and agencies that were already implementing the spirit of FITARA there won't be a tremendous impact because FITARA embodies how departments should be working anyway.
Despite the availability of highly evolved technologies, federal agencies’ portfolios remain heavily invested in legacy applications and infrastructure. Asked to identify the top three areas in which they spend money within their IT portfolios, participants responded that their leading expenditures were in the areas of operation and maintenance of legacy applications and infrastructure.
When asked to name specific technologies each agency is currently considering, most executives noted plans to adopt cloud and mobile technologies to decrease the investment in physical infrastructure, and to increase the availability of services to users. In addition, they showed great interest in new cybersecurity solutions.
Through interviews with agency executives, the survey team learned that better mechanisms are needed to track IT spending, effective collaboration requires executives to communicate consistently and constantly, and while communication between executives is a good start, functioning as a team is a better way to more effectively support agency missions.
Although agencies are seeing positive effects since FITARA was enacted in December 2014, there is much room for improvement. The IT and Finance functions should work together to enhance IT, while meeting financial targets. With the additional power granted by FITARA, CIOs will now make business decisions regarding IT investments. But to successfully transition this to this new responsibility, CIOs will need assistance from CFOs in financial matters, such as tracking IT spending, and measuring or managing the financial risk of a project.
The tone at the top has a tremendous impact on organizations incorporating a culture of change. Councils of executives must make tough decisions and take real action, and they must be rooted in collaboration and transparency, for maximum credibility.