The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) achieved an “A” grade in Software Inventory on its November 2017 Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) scorecard and has maintained that score ever since. VA is the second largest and most complex Agency to receive this FITARA rating—an impressive feat at a time when overall scores are declining for several Federal agencies.
Madhavi Nookala, Senior Enterprise Architect, and former Director of the Technology Innovation Program Office, discusses the reasons for VA’s success in the Software Inventory category.
In November 2017, the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform committees awarded the Department of Veterans Affairs an “A” grade in Software Inventory on its Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) scorecard. The grade recognized VA’s successful innovation within a key part of FITARA’s seven requirements—Government-wide software purchasing.
In addition to helping improve service delivery to Veterans, VA’s software inventory improvements also resulted in cost savings of approximately $65 million between 2017 and 2020.
To put this accomplishment into perspective, we’ll need to first explore how this came about.
In 2014, Congress passed FITARA, the largest overhaul of Federal IT in nearly 20 years. Its seven-part requirements guide included enhanced authority for agency CIOs, data center consolidations, and improvements to the software procurement process, among other mandated updates to Federal IT systems.
Until 2013, VA managed its software contracts at the individual business unit level, a prolonged and cumbersome process that was ripe for disruption in the digital age.
As VA leadership committed to meeting the FITARA requirements—later bolstered by the IT Modernization Act’s requirements—they also endeavored to create a new culture of innovation and change within VA. The effort led to the creation of VA’s Technology Innovation Program (TIP) Office, where new systems and protocols were established for the Department’s vast enterprise software license management framework.
Large legacy organizations typically have difficulty dealing with the immense scale of the data and IT environment. VA, like many other large Federal agencies, had a conventional inventory and management system built to work on segmented sections of the overall network. Historically, VA licensed and operated more than 5,000 unique software products sourced to some 900 vendors and controlled numerous software inventory and management tools, including Microsoft’s Systems Center and Configuration Manager, IBM’s BigFix, IBM’s BigFix Inventory, and VMware’s vCenter.
In 2013, VA ushered in an era of positive disruption by creating TIP and using a range of methods and industry best practices to invite change. By fostering collaboration among VA’s various business units, TIP taught personnel vital new skills for managing software licenses and explained the different requirements through the entire software lifecycle. VA deployed a centralized software license management approach (Figure 1) that coordinated with key personnel for the majority of Agency software license spending and enterprise-wide licenses.
With that structure in place, the pace of upgrades and improvements to VA’s software purchasing matrix increased, ultimately becoming a simplified system that normalizes huge amounts of data collected from across the Agency using 1E App Clarity 6.1.
Over the next several years, TIP developed numerous cost-saving opportunities and implemented better software investment decision-making protocols across VA. Today, VA continues leveraging TIP to manage software licensing and procurement procedures, fully embracing innovation as it meets Secretary Robert Wilkie’s mission of improving service to Veterans through IT transformation.
And, two years after first receiving it, VA continues to hold that “A” grade in Software Inventory from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s FITARA scorecard. The improvement in VA’s SAM framework extends far beyond the organization itself. Thanks to streamlined software management, VA staff now have easier access to systems that allow them to deliver high-quality care, benefits, and services to the Veterans they serve.