Official Says Vendors Will Have To Abide by New IT Spending Schema Too

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But officials have yet to answer outstanding questions about how that would work.

As the whole of government moves to adopt an analysis and accounting structure that can map technology investments to business outcomes, federal officials expect the contracting community to come along for the ride.

Included in the President’s Management Agenda is a mandate for agencies by 2022 to implement the Technology Business Management schema—an industry standard for categorizing and tracking IT costs across an enterprise. The aim is to tie IT decisions on spending and operations directly to the value to the government and taxpayer.

Agencies are currently under mandates to report IT spending to the Office of Management and Budget. However, “The TBM piece is different [than other taxonomies] in that the measured outcomes are not in shrinking the number of spinning drives and blinking lights in your infrastructure. It’s more about business outcomes,” David Shrive, CIO at the General Services Administration and an early federal adopter of TBM, said during the TBM Summit on July 11.

But if a standards adoption effort is to succeed, it needs buy-in from all parties injecting or consuming data in the system. To that end, vendors will have to abide by the TBM schema, as well, according to the government’s top IT leader.

“This is the discipline we’re imposing on ourselves. It’s also the discipline we’re going to ask for from our vendors,” Federal CIO Suzette Kent said at the event. “So our vendors are providing information into it using some of those same taxonomies and when we share information, using that same nomenclature.”

It is unclear how the administration plans to enforce that discipline, whether by creating a mandate to include TBM as a requirement in contracts, standing up a standards office—similar to the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, or FedRAMP, which verifies vendors’ cybersecurity—or just a strong suggestion. As of publication, OMB did not provide answers to several questions from Nextgov.

Some of those questions might get answered in upcoming virtual industry days scheduled for July 27 and 30. However, the stated goal of those events is an exchange of information on how vendors can help agencies implement TBM, rather than how industry will be expected to use the taxonomy itself.

“What we’re moving to is an environment that is more data-driven, more transparent,” Kent said at the event. “We have clarity of where we are putting taxpayer money. But more importantly, we have visibility to the outcomes that have been achieved and that we can show those through data at any point in time.”