The Challenges of IT Modernization & FITARA

Federal IT Modernization is not a new concept. The Information Technology Management Reform Act was passed in 1996 to help improve the way the federal government acquires, uses, and disposes of information technology (IT).

But over the past few years, the current administration’s priorities, programs, and resulting legislation have provided a more aggressive push towards achieving the Federal Government’s IT modernization objectives.

While there are many examples of rapid modernization efforts, three recent examples stand-out:

  1. The IT Modernization Report (2017): Called for the creation of Centers of Excellence.
  2. The MGT Act (2017): Provides CIOs and Agencies the ability to establish working capital funds for modernization projects.
  3. FITARA (2014): While it’s been around longer, it was only enacted three years earlier in 2014.

Each of these has helped shape requirements, provide a framework, and offer metrics to gauge success with IT Modernization efforts moving forward.

Let’s explore them in a bit more depth.


The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) established a long-term framework to track, assess, and manage federal IT investments.

The goal? To significantly reduce wasteful spending and improve project outcomes.

FITARA outlines seven “areas of reform” that affect how federal agencies purchase and manage their information technology (IT) assets:

  1. Enhance the authority of CIOs
  2. Improve transparency and risk management in IT
  3. Create a process for IT portfolio reviews
  4. Focus on data center consolidation and optimization
  5. Expand the training and use of “IT Cadres”
  6. Maximize the benefits of the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI)
  7. Create a government-wide software purchasing program

FITARA Scorecard

Since the law’s implementation, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a scorecard that assesses agencies’ FITARA implementation efforts. Every six months, the seven areas (noted above) are reviewed. Each agency is assigned a letter grade from A to F on their scorecard.

And, while scores are trending up, 14 of the 24 Departments/Agencies being tracked received a grade of C or lower on the latest FITARA scorecards that were released in July 2020.

The MGT Act

The MGT Act, or Modernizing Government Technology Act, is focused on making IT modernization a reality, with 3 overarching goals in mind:

  1. Improve services that the Federal Government delivers to the public
  2. Increase security around IT systems and data
  3. Save money for taxpayers

Today, approximately 80% of the Federal IT budget is consumed just to maintain existing IT investments.

80% of the budget to JUST maintain.

Legacy systems require considerable investment. This often robs the financial and human resources that should be invested in high-value and emerging areas like analytics and artificial intelligence.

The MGT Act offers Agency leaders a real opportunity to reconsider how they can streamline and automate many of their business processes – all while modernizing their tech stacks. 

MGT and Technology Business Management

To help achieve the priorities of the MGT Act, Technology Business Management (TBM) was introduced to, “align cost to IT services to improve delivery and efficiency, meaning this framework can be leveraged successfully amongst Executive Leadership across agencies. TBM will ultimately empower agency CIOs to better understand and communicate the business and mission value of IT spending to senior executives, mission support offices, and program managers.”

While the Technology Business Management standards offer a detailed roadmap for navigating IT Modernization waters, they add to the complexity of tracking so many “moving parts”.

In addition to the seven areas of reform introduced by FITARA, TBM introduces five key priorities and a total of 19 initiatives that all roll up to support them.

Here’s what TBM outlines:

  1. Capital Planning and Investment Control (CPIC)
    • Initiative: Information Resource Management (IRM) Strategic Plan
    • Initiative: Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA)
    • Initiative: IT Investment Management (ITIM)Initiative: Enterprise Architecture (EA)
    • Initiative: Governance
  1. Cybersecurity
    • Initiative: Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA)
    • Initiative: Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) Program
    • Initiative: Cyber Budget Data Request (BDR)
    • Initiative: High-Value Assets (HVA) Program
    • Initiative: Security Operations Center (SOC) Consolidation
  1. IT Modernization
    • Initiative: Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI)
    • Initiative: The Technology Modernization Fund (TMF)
    • Initiative: Working Capital Funds (WCF)
    • Initiative: 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA)
  1. Acquisition
    • Initiative: Shared Services
    • Initiative: Category Management
  1. Data
    • Initiative: Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018
    • Initiative: Digital Accountability and Transparency Act
    • Initiative: Integrated Data Collection (IDC)

The Problem with IT Modernization

As you probably already know or have read here, IT Modernization involves a lot of priorities.

With so many priorities and supporting initiatives, comprehensive tracking and reporting is very difficult.

Efforts become repetitive. Alignment between activities and initiatives is challenging. And big picture visibility becomes nearly impossible.

While some initiatives are easier to track and manage, many are more involved. This makes it more difficult to prioritize those that closely align with the core mission.

There are common challenges that virtually all organizations encounter when trying to manage these “integrated plans”. These plans cascade down through the organization, and typically share resources across siloed departments and locations, increasing the challenges

Common Challenges of Integrated Plan Management

Organizations often turn to their existing tools and processes to execute mission-critical initiatives.

In some cases, this is a project management tool or business intelligence system. But most resort to Excel, PowerPoint, or even SharePoint. These tools and processes are simply not built for plans that are integrated and span across departments and locations.

All large organizations, faced with managing the complexities of integrated plans to drive progress, experience the same challenges:

  • Leadership sets direction but often struggles with effective communication to the broader organization
  • Managers are challenged with maintaining alignment & uniformity as work is assigned across the organization
  • Teams work in silos across different tools and locations with limited understanding of the alignment of their work with the key initiatives; further eroding uniformity
  • Manual processes to collect updates (that are siloed across multiple systems) impair accountability for results. And data is often out of date by the time it is compiled and reported.
  • This lengthy reporting process limits visibility and the opportunity to influence outcomes

Improving IT Modernization Efforts

To realize the best results towards IT Modernization efforts and optimize FITARA scores, Agency leaders need a big picture view of how their integrated plans are tracking and driving world-class execution.

Agency leaders need to help leadership see through silos, keep all data uniform and up-to-date, and keep everyone on the same page and in-the-know.

With “Integrated Plan Management”, any organization can realize success and achieve their desired outcomes. Here’s how other agency leaders have leveraged Integrated Plan Management:

  • Clearly aligned initiatives that ensure the right people are focused on the right things
  • Supporting work with accountable parties and increased understanding of the overall strategy
  • Familiar work tools & processes, while gaining cross-team visibility & improving collaboration
  • Standardized and automated plan updates that eliminate the frustration of siloed information

Learn More about how AchieveIt’s unique Integrated Plan Management platform helps large organizations manage mission-critical initiatives by establishing uniformity in data collection and reporting, creating the visibility to know what needs attention, and promoting accountability for world-class execution.


AchieveIt: A Proven Solution to Assist with Digital Transformation

With AchieveIt you have access to a unified platform for managing your workforce, planning, and carrying out your organization’s objectives and initiatives with ease.

AchieveIt is a Software-as-a-Service platform that is widely utilized by organizations like the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Joint Pathology Center (JPC-DHA), state and local governments, and hundreds of large commercial entities to track and report on mission-critical plans and initiatives.

We empower these large organizations with the uniformity and visibility necessary to align and track their highest-level initiatives down to the individual tasks that drive execution and readiness.

With everything in one central location, it’s easier than ever to stay informed, updated, and connected to one another while achieving goals and accomplishments as a unified front.

AchieveIt Core Competencies:

  • Track performance of long-term projects
  • Monitor execution on mission-critical initiatives
  • Track key metrics with reports & dashboards
  • Coordinate important updates across the organization
  • Maintain Continuity of Operations

That’s why everyone from global corporations, to regional healthcare systems, to federal agencies have turned to AchieveIt for their Integrated Plan Management. Let’s actually do this.



Meet the Author  Bob Walton

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