We are living in a world that requires federal agencies to be more fully transparent about how they are spending taxpayer dollars. Investment in IT is no exception. If you are involved in technology for an agency of the federal government, the success or failure of your projects may very well rest on how well you document your strategy, implementation and results. For major IT investments, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requires companies to submit an Exhibit 55 (formerly Exhibit 300) to justify the expense. It shows taxpayers that the IT projects the government is funding are performing as promised, and this is done primarily through the public-facing IT Dashboard website.
Exhibit 55 is used by the federal government as part of its capital planning and investment control (CPIC) process. The OMB Exhibit 55 states, “Agencies must submit information on their respective information technology (IT) investment portfolios, using the required formats, as applicable, as stated in the FY 2016 IT Budget – Capital Planning Guidance … The required information allows the agency and the OMB to review and evaluate each agency’s IT spending and to compare IT spending across the Federal Government.”
There have been some changes to the naming conventions in the current year’s submission cycle for budget year 2016 that companies need to be aware of.
Here is a quick summary:
|The document called:
|Is now called:
|IT Portfolio Summary BY2016 (IPS)
|IT Security Report BY2016
|Provisioned IT & Cloud Spending Summary
|— DELETED —
|Major IT Business Case BY2016 (MIBC)
|Major IT Business Case Detail BY2016 (MIBCD)
Why the changes? The OMB decidedthat the old “Exhibit…” naming convention would not be very useful to the general public in understanding what the government is presenting. By renaming the various submissions it will be easier for the average citizen to understand what each report is addressing regarding the investment portfolio.
What are the challenges?
Put simply, any person with Internet access can go to the IT Dashboard site and drill down by agency to see how any investment is performing. This means that an investment’s performance is highly visible to the public. The website displays a red, yellow, or green rating for each investment and its individual projects, along with analysis of program performance, which includes cost, schedule, risks, and operational performance.
Avoid common mistakes
Not including key stakeholders – When building an Exhibit 55 report it’s easy to forget that there is real work being performed behind those numbers. Having input and buy-in from the stakeholder from each project is a key to success.
Not starting early – Exhibit 55 “season” generally kicks off in early June and usually wraps up in early to mid-September. This means that most of the required input will occur during the summer, when most stakeholders will be taking vacations. Allowing plenty of lead time to account for these potential bottlenecks will save headaches down the road.
Insufficient monitoring – The military saying says, “No battle plan survives the first shot”—neither does any project plan. OMB understands that, and actually expects that there will be some variances, if not outright changes, to the project’s activities/metrics/risks throughout the year. Keeping an ear to the ground and monitoring the project’s execution allows the OMB analyst to deal with potential changes as they occur, rather than react to them after the fact.
Taking the time to develop a well-formulated Exhibit 55 and executing it properly will have the benefit of showing that your project is well run and is providing value to the public. This can be accomplished in several stages, from involving key stakeholders early on in the formulation process, maintaining good documentation to support all elements of your exhibits, as well as careful monitoring of the project’s actual performance throughout the fiscal year.
At North Star Group, we’ve developed a methodology for helping our customers create a well-planned Exhibit 55 that will stand up to scrutiny. This approach combines the discipline of project management with OMB best practices.
If you need assistance creating an approach to the Exhibit 55, building a new Exhibit 55 or improving an existing one, North Star Group can help. Reach out to us today.