- --- .--__-.- _____ ._____ Meeting the Government’s Technology Challenge Results of A GAO Symposium Preface Managing the federal government’s information technology is a monu- mental task. Over 53,000 government computer and telecommunications systems touch the lives of Americans each day. As we stand on the brink of a new decade, the government is facing the enormous challenge of modernizing many of these vital systems to ensure that the public receives the services they expect and deserve. Although the federal gov- ernment is spending about $20 billion annually for this purpose, prog- ress has been painfully slow. We cannot afford this lack of progress. With forecasts of tighter budgets and a shrinking labor force, the government will soon have to meet the needs of the American taxpayer with less funding and fewer trained employees. Government leaders must increasingly rely upon information technology to streamline operations, improve service to the public, and handle the accelerating rate of change that will undoubtedly face gov- ernment in the 1990s. On October 4 and 5, 1989, GAO sponsored a symposium, “Meeting the Government’s Technology Challenge ,” that brought together leaders from industry and government to explore ways of better using informa- tion technology to meet the demands facing the government into the next century. This report builds on the symposium’s results to provide a framework for acquiring and managing information technology. We believe this framework offers an appropriate starting point for address- ing the technology challenge facing the government now and in the future. Charles A. Bowsher Comptroller General of the United States Page1 Contents Preface Meeting the The GAO Symposium: Focusing on the Technology 4 Government’s Challenge Symposium Results: Principles for Managing Information Technology Challenge Technology The Challenge for the Future Appendix I Biographies of Industry Speakers Appendix II 14 Symposium Panelists Appendix III 15 Biographies of Congressional Speakers Appendix IV 16 Major Contributors to This Report Abbreviations ADP Automatic Data Processing, Inc. IMTEC Information Management and Technology Division GAO General Accounting Office USAA United Services Automobile Association Page2 GAO/IMTECBO-23Results of A GAO Symposium Page 3 GAO/IMTEC90-23 Results of A GAO Symposium Meeting the Government’s Technology Challenge Information technology systems are the lifeblood of the federal govern- ment, sustaining vital functions such as tax collection, aid to our elderly and disadvantaged citizens, and national defense. Yet it is becoming increasingly clear that many of these systems are approaching a state of crisis. Some of the most critical ones, such as those used by the Internal Revenue Service to process taxes, were designed almost 30 years ago and rely on antiquated equipment and outdated designs. Given the likeli- hood of continuing population increases, the demand for government services may outstrip the processing capability of many of today’s sys- tems before the end of this century. Attempts to modernize the government’s information systems have pro- duced few successes and many costly failures. Over the past several years GAO has found skyrocketing costs, long delays, and elusive bene- fits to be characteristic of far too many information technology projects. The causes most often cited for this bleak history are a lack of effective leadership by senior managers, ineffective communication among those involved in developing information systems, incomplete knowledge of the customer’s needs, the absence of a clear and complete systems plan or architecture, and frequent turnover among project managers and other key personnel. This record of failure has resulted in a lack of pub- lic confidence regarding the government’s ability to manage information systems projects. In light of the current budget deficit and the growing demand for government services, federal managers must find a way to break this cycle of failure and begin creating a workable strategy for meeting the demands of the future. Modernizing the federal government’s information technology is an The GAO Symposium: enormous and complex undertaking. Given the government’s disap- Focusing on the pointing record in this area, a consensus has been building among fed- Technology Challenge era1 leaders that new ways of addressing this challenge must be explored. In October 1989 GAO convened a symposium, “Meeting the Government’s Technology Challenge,” to foster new ideas and fresh approaches to developing and managing the government’s information technology systems. By bringing together leaders from industry, the Congress, and the executive agencies, we sought to begin a dialogue involving the major parties involved in helping the federal government use technology to meet the nation’s needs. Dr. Peter Keen, Executive Director of the International Center for Information Technologies, mod- erated the symposium. Page4 GAO/lMTECXW-23ResuksofAGAOSymposium --- Meeting the Government’s Technology Challenge During the 2-day event, participants explored information technology issues and debated ways to ensure that the government will receive the greatest benefit for its information technology investments. To begin the symposium, speakers from private industry who had been highly suc- cessful in developing information technology systems recounted their experiences. Their presentations were particularly pertinent because the challenges facing these organizations were similar to those confronting the government; each was involved in delivering services to the public that required processing large amounts of data in short amounts of time. The speakers and the organizations they represent were General Donald Lasher (ret.), President for Information Systems, United Services Auto- mobile Association (LTSAA);John Fisher, Senior Vice President, Bane One Corporation; Jim Grant, Executive Vice President for Systems and Tech- nology, The Royal Bank of Canada; and Barry Kotar, President and Chief Executive Officer, Covia Corporation. Appendix I contains addi- tional information on these speakers. Following the industry speakers, panels composed of representatives from federal agencies, congressional committees, private industry, and academia discussed alternatives for addressing the federal government’s dilemma. The ideas generated in the panels were then debated during a plenary session. Appendix II contains a listing of the panelists. Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts offered congressional perspectives on the information technology challenge. Additional information on these speakers is pro- vided in appendix III. Five principles for effective management of information technology Symposium Results: emerged during the symposium. Together they provide a framework for Principles for successfully integrating information technology into the business of gov- Managing Information ernment. GAO'S experiences over the years in reviewing the govern- ment’s use of this technology has confirmed the validity of these Technology principles. GAO suggests that agency heads examine their use of informa- tion technology and apply the following principles when developing and managing their technology plans. Principle 1: Commitment and Vision Begin at the Top Most successful automation efforts begin with a top manager who has a clear vision of how the organization can benefit from information tech- nology and a commitment to making this vision a reality. Without clear direction and support from the top, modernization programs tend to Page 5 GAO/IMTJZGW23 Results of A GAO Symposium Meeting the Govemment’s Technology Challenge degenerate into loose collections of independent systems. Often these systems are developed under the oversight of technical managers who focus on the needs of their individual units rather than the organiza- tion’s larger mission and goals. The net result is that the systems that are developed do not effectively meet the organization’s or the public’s needs. The importance of visionary leadership was clearly illustrated by John Fisher of Bane One in describing the financial services industry. During the last decade-when many banks were losing ground to their competi- tors-bank managers were repeatedly criticized as lacking vision. An important aspect of this lack of vision was the bank managers’ reluc- tance to embrace the promise of technology. He noted that this situation has recently changed, with many banks viewing technology as a strate- gic tool enabling them to stay ahead of the competition. Mr. Fisher sug- gested that the federal government’s need for visionary leadership was analogous to the banking environment during the last decade. Senior managers should examine their missions and begin to look for- ward-beyond the next budget cycle-to find the best way of serving the needs of the public in the future. Instead of simply automating existing processes and procedures, leaders need to take a fresh look at alternative ways of accomplishing their goals and embody this new thinking into a vision that can guide systems development over the long term. According to General Lasher of USAA,if information systems are developed in concert with a clear long-range vision, they become the organization’s “strategic weapon” for effectively accomplishing its goals. After examining their mission in light of the public’s future needs, agency leaders should prepare clear, forward-looking statements articu- Leaders need to take a fresh look at lating the vision. Such a statement should describe what services the alternative ways of accomplishing their goals, instead of simply agency is to provide now and in the future and present critical mile- automating existing processes and stones for implementing the vision. Specific technology plans should procedures. then be developed that will transform this vision into reality. The agency’s senior official for information resources management should play a leading role in these activities. Specifically, this official should assist in defining the vision and preparing the agency’s technol- ogy plan, and then ensure that the ongoing and proposed systems devel- opment projects fall logically within this plan. The symposium participants reached a consensus that agencies need to redefine the role of the senior information resources management official and elevate the P8ge 0 GAO/llMTM%S23 Resulta of A GAO Symposium Meeting the Government’s Technology Challenge authority of this position to ensure that these responsibilities are fulfilled. Principle 2: Partnerships Can Help Define the Vision Forging alliances and cultivating partnerships is an essential part of defining and implementing an agency’s strategic vision. Having access to the best available knowledge and advice from government, industry, and academia is critical when establishing the vision and the supporting architecture. Advisory panels, private consulting firms, research foun- dations, and other government agencies can provide fresh, independent perspectives and new insights. Alliances with external organizations such as these were cited by symposium participants as being invaluable. Within an organization, partnerships between program offices and tech- nical groups, at all levels, can promote effective communication and cooperative working relationships. Agencies should establish such part- nerships as a means of ending the artificial and damaging split between technical planning and program implementation. Jim Grant of The Royal Bank of Canada noted that allowing both groups-technical and pro- gram-to actively participate on architectural planning committees almost guarantees that concerns, ideas, and solutions from both sides will be aired and addressed. General Lasher echoed this approach for establishing organizational partnerships, USAAhas created an “executive partnership” among senior managers from both program units and systems groups that promotes a cooperative environment. Representing top management, US-U’SArchi- tecture Review Board regularly convenes to ensure that stated policies and information technology projects conform to the organization’s vision for the future. The consensus among the symposium participants was that agency officials should establish similar boards to ensure that the guiding vision is realized. Agency leaders should also involve the Congress as an active partner in defining and implementing their vision. Top management must clearly articulate to the Congress how the vision will help achieve the agency’s mission and describe how each major information technology project will contribute to realizing the vision. It is particularly important that the information provided to decisionmakers is as complete and realistic as possible. Further, agency management needs to evaluate and discuss with the Congress the impact its vision will have on the organizational structure and congressional constituencies. Technological change often P8ge 7 GAO/IMTEGm23 Results of A GAO Symposium Meeting the Government’s Technology Challenge entails organizational change; agencies should have a plan for managing both and should communicate these plans to the Congress. With a clearer understanding of the agency’s vision and goals, the Congress will be in a better position to make informed oversight decisions and assist in resolving difficult issues. Both Senator Frank Lautenberg and Represen- tative Edward Markey highlighted the importance of working together to resolve the technology challenges facing the government. Principle 3: Service to the Public Should Be the Vision’s Cornerstone Successful use of information technology requires understanding the needs of the customer and letting those needs dictate how technology is used. Government typically focuses its attention on internal operational needs, with little regard to an important aspect of its mission-meeting the needs and desires of the American public. Planning for information technology without considering the needs of the public can backfire, resulting in underutilized systems, increased costs, and dissatisfied customers. During the symposium, industry leaders repeatedly emphasized that their organizations’ strategies were driven to a large extent by the needs of their customers. According to Barry Kotar, Covia Corporation’s tech- nology plan is based on a comprehensive assessment and understanding of the customer’s priorities and needs. In many federal agencies, the ser- vices they provide are limited by what their systems can handle, not what the taxpayer wants. Successful leaders must be in a position to anticipate how their technology systems can accommodate changes in taxpayer requirements. Echoing this point, Jim Grant observed that forming a virtual partnership with the customer is essential for develop- ing a service-oriented system. Agencies should actively seek to Senior executives should make a concerted effort to understand and identify and wderstand the incorporate the needs of the American public in developing information taxpayers’ needs, both NOW and in technology strategies. They must actively seek to identify and under- the future, and not rely on the perceived dernarlds of the past. stand the taxpayers’ needs, both now and in the future, and not rely on the perceived demands of the past. Specific vehicles for obtaining this information could include customer surveys and pilot testing. Evidence that agencies are listening to taxpayers’ views will encourage a sc’nse of confidence that scarce tax dollars are being used appropriately. Page 8 GAO/IMTECgO-23Resulta of A GAO S) mposium --- Meeting the Government’s Technology Challenge Principle 4: A Clear, Flexible Architecture Should Support the Vision Information systems are one of the most important tools for effectively accomplishing the organization’s mission. For maximum efficiency and effectiveness, these systems should be developed as part of an overall architecture or plan. An architecture is a blueprint explaining the struc- ture of and communications among an organization’s information tech- nology resources- hardware, software, and people. It is the foundation upon which an agency builds, modifies, and expands its organizational operations. The architecture should drive all major technology purchases. Rather than simply buying information technology without a clear plan for how it will fit into the agency’s overall strategy, leaders need a comprehen- sive plan that will dictate the equipment and resources required. This should reduce the likelihood of acquiring inappropriate or duplicate technology and ensure that the technology can be integrated with existing systems. Developing a collection of independent information systems with no underlying foundation or architecture is unacceptable. A clear, well-conceived architecture also offers the possibility of build- ing an integrated information system one piece at a time, thereby mini- mizing the risks inherent in an all-or-nothing strategy. Constructing a system incrementally provides flexibility to modify or expand the sys- tem in response to changes in customer needs, legislative requirements, or technological advances. Barry Kotar, for example, built Covia’s sys- tem incrementally using proven building blocks, thereby reducing the project’s risks. This modular approach also enables the customer to begin reaping the benefits of the system sooner. The symposium partici- pants agreed that it was preferable to avoid very large, monolithic projects in favor of developing smaller, modular components within the architecture. Principle 6: Management Continuity Is Needed to Implement the Vision Continuity at the project management level is essential to realizing the vision. In the past, government has had difficulty maintaining the con- tinuity necessary to provide consistent direction and clear accountabil- ity for information systems development efforts. All too often, changes in management occur that significantly affect the direction of an infor- mation systems project, thereby increasing costs, delaying the deli\~cry Page 9 GAO/IMIEC99-23 Results of A GAO S>mpcmium Meeting the Government’s Technology Challenge of the project’s benefits, and clouding accountability for the project’s success. Assembling and retaining a team of highly qualified officials to manage critical information systems projects is essential to implementing the vision. Jim Grant stressed that the quality of the people supporting the leaders in the organization will determine whether the vision can be car- ried out. Operating on this philosophy, The Royal Bank of Canada estab- lished an intensive university recruiting program to ensure that highly skilled students are being hired. In this vein, symposium participants agreed that a move toward professionalizing the field of information resources management would enhance the quality of project managers. Suggestions offered included establishing a governmentwide training curriculum and developing a federal project management methodology. Since retaining key, highly qualified officials to maintain continuity within technology projects is a major dilemma, agencies should explore new ways of bringing continuity to the process of managing these projects. For example, developing a detailed long-term strategy that can transcend personnel changes would mitigate some of the risks associated with management turnover. Using advisory committees and individual consultants to provide consistent institutional memory and perspective would also help achieve continuity. As we move toward the next century, information technology promises The Challenge for the to provide higher quality government services at reduced cost to the Future public. The challenge of making this promise a reality rests primarily with our leaders, who must provide the commitment and vision neces- sary to change the way government operates in this critical arena. Spe- cifically, GAO believes that for this endeavor to be successful, federal leaders will need to . charge the senior information resources management official in each agency with defining and implementing a clear yet flexible architecture that embodies the agency’s vision of how it will do business in the future; encourage the formation of internal and external partnerships through organizations such as architecture planning committees, review boards, or advisory committees; clearly explain the agency’s overall vision and direction in providing information to the Congress; Page 10 GAO/I Results of A GAO Sympadum Meeting the Government’s Technology Challenge . ground all technology decisions in a thorough understanding of the needs of the public; l adopt a modular approach to developing major systems and consider capping the size of project phases where implementation risks are high; l explore ways of professionalizing the field of information resources management, such as establishing a governmentwide training curricu- lum and developing a federal project management methodology; and l foster continuity through the use of detailed long-term plans, advisory committees, and individual consultants. These steps constitute a promising agenda for action, but they are only a beginning. The dialogue begun during the symposium must be continued, new insights must be shared, and new solutions must be found if the government is to meet its technology challenge. The time to act is now. The information technology crisis the govern- ment is facing will not resolve itself; it requires immediate action and continuing attention. Committed, visionary leadership is needed to address this crisis. Agency heads should demonstrate this leadership by applying the framework to their strategies for acquiring and managing information technology. Page 11 GAO/lMTECW23 Resulta of A GAO Symposium Ppe bit&qkies of Industry Speakers John F. Fisher John Fisher is Senior Vice President for Bane One Corporation. Known today as an innovator in electronic consumer banking, Bane One enjoys Bane One Corporation great success: it is the third most profitable bank in Ohio’s five-state area and boasts over $36 billion in assets. Mr. Fisher’s first major banking innovation was the bank credit card. In 1966, Bane One joined with Bank of America, which enabled Bane One to market the credit card nationally. The BankAmericard, later renamed Visa, was the first nationally accepted credit card and established Bane One as a banking leader. Under Mr. Fisher, Bane One also produced the first on-line credit-card authorization service and the first form of over- draft protection, linking credit cards together with checking accounts. Mr. Fisher has set a precedent in the industry by demonstrating the close relationship between technology and banking in meeting the needs of the customer. J.C. (Jim) Grant Jim Grant is the Executive Vice President for Systems and Technology at The Royal Bank of Canada. The Royal Bank is Canada’s largest, with The Royal Bank of Canada assets exceeding U.S.$90 billion and having 1,500 domestic branches plus 240 international offices. Headquartered in Montreal and Toronto, the Royal Bank has been a leader in the application of new technologies for efficient operational management and for providing a variety of sophisticated services. Under Mr. Grant’s leadership, the Royal Bank has expanded its elec- tronic network for both personal and commercial banking. Barry A. Kotar Barry Kotar is President and Chief Executive Officer of Covia Corpora- tion, a position he has held since the company was formed in January Covia Corporation 1987 as an operating subsidiary of United Airlines. In August 1988, United sold half of Covia to five other air carriers, forming a partner- ship with USAir, British Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Swissair, and Alitalia. Covia is the leading worldwide travel distribution company. Under Mr. Kotar’s leadership, the company develops and markets advanced auto- mation products, information systems, and network services, including the world’s most advanced computer reservation system. Mr. Kotar’s philosophy stresses developing systems that will support corporate growth and expansion in the future. Page 12 GAO/IMTlC90-22 Results of A GAO Symposium -.- API=* 1 Biographies of Industry Speakers Gen. Donald R. Lasher Donald Lasher is President of Information Services for United Services Automobile Association, an insurance and financial services company United Services noted as a technological leader. General Lasher provides the automated Automobile Association systems, communications, and computer support for all USAAactivities. Directing a 1,500~person systems and telecommunications staff, he over- sees an operation whose budget exceeds $125 million annually and includes the world’s largest automatic telephone call distribution system under one roof. At U~AA,General Lasher spearheaded development of an automated, multifunctional workstation environment with on-line, real-time support to over 11,500 users worldwide. He also directed the development of a highly successful image-processing system that captures and stores all of U~AA’Sincoming property and casualty policy service mail. Page 13 GAO/IMTBG30-23 Results of A GAO Symposium -_.- Appendix II Symposium Panelists Dr. Maryam Alavi, Associate Professor of Information Systems, Univer- sity of Maryland Jack L. Brock, Director, Government Information and Financial Manage- ment, U.S. General Accounting Office Herbert R. Doggette, Jr., Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Social Security Administration John R. Dyer, Deputy Commissioner for Management, Social Security Administration Robert Gellman, Staff Member, Subcommittee on Government Informa- tion, Justice and Agriculture, House Committee on Government Operations Edward J. Gleiman, Staff Director, Subcommittee on Federal Services, Post Office and Civil Service, Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs Theodore F. Gonter, Director, Systems Engineering and Integration, Internal Revenue Service Steven Katz, Chief Counsel, Subcommittee on Government Information and Regulation, Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs Francis A. McDonough, Deputy Commissioner for Federal Information Resources Management, General Services Administration Peter C.S. Nicoll, Manager, Business Management Program, The Royal Bank of Canada Henry H. Philcox, Acting Assistant Commissioner, Computer Services, Internal Revenue Service Fred L. Sims, Assistant Commissioner, Information Resources Manage- ment Policy, General Services Administration Dr. Rona B. Stillman, Chief Scientist, U.S. General Accounting Office Lynda Woodman, President, International Center for Information Technologies Page 14 GAO/IMTBC3@23 Results of A GAO Symposium Appendix III Biographies of CongressionalSpeakers Sen. Frank Rq, Lautenberg Frank Lautenberg represents the state of New Jersey in the IJnited State of New Jersey States Senate. Since 1985 he has been a member of the Senate Appropri- ations Committee, with key roles on various subcommittees. In 1987 Senator Lautenberg began chairing the Committee’s Subcommittee on Transportation. After graduating in 1949 from Columbia University with a degree in economics, Senator Lautenberg began selling payroll services for a small business in New Jersey. Aided by computer technology, this business evolved into Automatic Data Processing (ADP), Inc., marking the begin- ning of the American computing services industry. Over the past 30 years, ADP, Inc., has become a worldwide leader in the computing industry. Senator Lautenberg served as Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board until elected to the Senate in 1982. Today, ADP is the largest computing services firm in the world, with annual revenues of more than $1 billion and more than 22,000 employees. Rep. Edward J. MIarkey A graduate of Boston College School of Law, Edward Markey was Seventh District elected to the Congress in 1976 from the seventh district of Massachu- setts. Since his election to the Congress, he has risen steadily in the of Massachusetts ranks of its committee structure. In 1987 Representative Markey took over the chairmanship of the Tele- communications and Finance Subcommittee of the Energy and Com- merce Committee, a post that holds particular interest for him because of Boston’s growing financial sector and Massachusetts’ role as a leader in the high-technology community. As subcommittee chairman, he pre- sides over interstate and foreign telecommunications, including all tele- communications and information transmission. Representative Markey’s recent efforts involve overhauling the regulation of securities laws to prevent a recurrence of the stock market crash of 1987. Page 15 GAO/IMTEG9O-23Results of A GAO Symposium Appendix IV Major Contributors to This &port Ralph V. Carlone, Assistant Comptroller General, (202) 275-4892 Information Timothv P. Bowling. Assistant Director, (202) 275-8008 Management and Leslee kL. Bollea, deputy Project Manager . Lee H. Ho, Deputy Project Manager Technology Division, Washington, D.C. (510429) Page 16 GAO/IMTEG3O-23 Results of A GAO Symposium LT.% General Acrwunting Office Post Office Box fiO15 Gait ht*rshurg, Maryland 20877 The first fi\,e wpitas of each wport are fret* . Addit ional copies art* $2.00 each. Orders must be prepaid by cash or by check or rnowy order made out to the Superintendent of Doc’unwuts.
Meeting the Government's Technology Challenge: Results of a GAO Symposium
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-02-01.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)