OMB’s Jeffrey Zients Details ‘Best Practices’ Progress

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To reform the nation’s capital, improve performance and cut costs, the White House in January hosted a forum where 50 CEOs across various sectors and different-sized businesses shared their insight on how to take the best practices of the private sector on increasing efficiency and effectiveness and apply them to the federal government. Now, the Office of Budget and Management has outlined what steps have been successfully completed.

In a Aug. 10 OMB Blog post, OMB Acting Director Jeffrey Zients wrote about the progress made, including improving the results of large-scale IT projects across the federal government.

“Consistent with the advice from many forum participants, we’re intervening in high-risk projects while at the same time undertaking a structural review of our IT procurement and management practices,” he wrote. “On the high-risk front, we are pulling together cross-functional leaders at the earliest signs of trouble to take corrective actions either to get projects back on track or terminate them as quickly as possible.”

OMB is taking “aggressive action” on financial system modernization projects in particular, as these types of projects have been plagued by persistent problems. In late June, the department stopped all financial system modernization projects across the federal government, prompting agencies to work toward reducing the size, cost and complexity of each project.

These actions will decrease project costs by hundreds of millions of dollars and will increase the likelihood of success, according to Zients. As an example, he explained how the Department of Veterans Affairs was able to save $300 million by terminating a financial system project after determining it was unlikely to succeed.

Addressing the issue of handling large-scale IT projects more efficiently, OMB launched a multiagency project to review customer service standards and the metrics used to track performance against those standards. That information will be available to the public to set customer expectations and to encourage effective performance management and oversight, Zients wrote.

Additionally, OMB is working to continue the dialogue between private- and public-sector managers. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order creating the President’s Management Advisory Board to provide the president and the President’s Management Council advice on the implementation of business best practices to improve federal government management and operations. OMB will be announcing board members and holding its first meeting later this year.

“Overall, while there are key differences between the government and the private sector, there is much we can learn from high-performing private sector organizations – and this administration is committed to doing just that,” Zients concluded.

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