The consolidation of processes and systems under the Bush administration's lines of business initiative likely will continue in some form in the next administration, a research firm is predicting.
Comment on this article in The Forum.The lines of business were established to support the e-government arm of the President's Management Agenda. The Office of Management and Budget established task forces to analyze business and information technology data and best practices for each line of business. Originally there were five -- financial, human resources, grants, health and case management systems. Four have since been added -- information systems security, budget formulation and execution, geospatial, and IT infrastructure. OMB has set strategies such as consolidating computer networks, using technology to cut costs and improving service in each line of business.
According to a new report from Reston, Va-based INPUT, OMB has adjusted the lines of business to reflect information sharing goals that are "achievable, needed, and can provide value." Setting realistic goals and clearly outlining the potential benefits for agencies and citizens makes it likely that the "concepts behind most [lines of business] are likely to live on," the study said.
"These are based on a lot of practical issues that have in many ways predated President Bush," said Richard Colven, INPUT vice president for industry analysis. "Even before he took office, people in government were saying, 'Why do we have 100 different financial systems and HR systems across government?' So they'll survive because they're logical."
INPUT identified several other aspects of the lines of business that make them likely to survive a political turnover. The report cited a general consensus across government that despite mixed progress, the lines of business effort provides a foundation for improving cost effectiveness, information sharing and efficiency governmentwide. In addition, costs associated with most lines of business are shared among several agencies and are therefore not a drain on any one agency's budget.
INPUT reported that lines of business could fly under the radar during budget cuts with a modest $26 million price tag, but continued funding was not guaranteed.
"LoBs tend to be advisory in nature, low cost and low labor, making them easier and politically expedient to eliminate," the analysts wrote. "LoB budget cuts may be more of an indication of the 'scapegoat' syndrome, i.e., initiatives cut for political versus fiscal reasons."
INPUT noted, however, that OMB expected the overall e-government initiative to generate $340 million from service fees, which could be used for continued investment in lines of business. Colven pointed out that one lines of business venture, shared service centers, could bring in money through service fees for agencies that use them.
"As agencies migrate over, there would be less direct outlays," he said. "There's the expectation that [the shared service centers] will become self-sustaining."
INPUT predicted the financial management, human resources and IT infrastructure lines of business have the highest chance of continued success through the next administration. Their maturity and the fact that they are transaction-oriented make them most likely to boost savings and efficiency, the firm reported.
While Colven said he'd expect a new administration to put its own emphasis on the existing lines of business, he noted there will continue to be shared problems across government that can be solved by common processes.
"Although the overall themes of the LoBs are those that align with the stated goals of both parties, it is difficult to predict the long-term future," the report stated.