FBI Sets Government Standard for New IT Business Cases

WASHINGTON (September 10, 2008) -- The FBI is admired for its efforts to combat criminal activity that threatens the safety and security of our society. But when it came to presenting a strong business case to fund ongoing and planned Information Technology (IT) initiatives, FBI agents and analysts simply didn’t have the time, support, or expertise to propose and justify their requirements to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Congress.

Realizing this, FBI Chief Information Officer and Executive Assistant Director Zalmai Azmi established the Office of IT Policy and Planning (OIPP) to strategically plan and assess the FBI’s IT investments, projects, and assets across the enterprise to deliver critical mission capability, while optimizing performance and return on investment.

Azmi and OIPP Program Management Executive Carlo Lucchesi knew that the gateway to securing new funding was to present a compelling OMB Exhibit 300—the form used by federal agencies to request capital financing for new IT projects. Lucchesi charged the IT Investment and Portfolio Management Unit (IIPMU) Chief, Jarrod Bruner, to turn the situation around.

Today, the FBI has improved from just 10 percent of its business cases supported by OMB, to having the highest scoring OMB Exhibit 300s in the Federal Government. But achieving a success rate of 100 percent on major investments (the government-wide rate for Fiscal Year 2010 was only 26 percent) and setting the standard within the Federal Government was no small task.

Bruner learned that the process is “…hardly intuitive. OMB evaluates all elements of the business case and communicates the results in the form of a score. OMB places major investments that do not receive a passing score on its Management Watch List. OMB or the Department of Justice can withhold funding for investments on the Management Watch List until Exhibit 300 weaknesses are remediated,” Bruner said.

Bruner is quick to note night-and-day differences between how major information systems were managed then and now. “Field agents and other support staff who were not professionally trained IT program/project managers were managing major IT projects. We just didn’t have the resources or expertise required to ensure our projects were consistently delivered on time, on budget, and within scope,” he said.

OIPP’s next objective was to leverage IIPMU’s success across the entire Bureau with the recently released FBI Exhibit 300 Handbook, which the unit developed to provide FBI program/project managers a single authoritative source for preparing successful OMB Exhibit 300s. Bruner says this self-help guide “streamlines the process” for program managers, agents, and support staff to create their own business cases by reducing the need for individual consults and consolidating years’ worth of frequently asked questions, key regulations, and tried-and-true terms and phrases into one easy-to-use volume.

“The IIPMU’s work is enhancing the Bureau’s reputation with OMB. The fact that the FBI is now recognized as the best at managing IT investments will increase our chances of securing new funding to enhance our IT infrastructure and deploy new capabilities,” Bruner said.

“The OMB Exhibit 300 has been around for about a decade. But it is only recently that the FBI has been doing them right,” Lucchesi added.