Raines' Rules

First the Office of Management and Budget came up with three pesky questions to guide agencies pondering big information technology purchases: "Does government need to do it? If so, can some other agency do it better than we can? If not, have we reengineered our process so we can spend less and use the technology most efficiently?" Now, in a recent memorandum to agencies, come "Raines' Rules," the IT gospel according to new OMB Director Franklin Raines.

Under the rules, major information systems investments should:

  • Support core or priority federal government missions;
  • Be impossible for another agency, company or government to efficiently perform;
  • Support work already redesigned to cut costs, improve efficiency and use off-the-shelf technology;
  • Show a return on investment equal to or better than other uses of available resources;
  • Be consistent with agency and governmentwide architectures that integrate work and information flows with strategic plans, are year 2000 compliant, incorporate standards allowing information exchange and resource sharing; and retain flexibility in the choice of suppliers;
  • Reduce risk by avoiding custom design, using pilot projects and prototypes, establishing clear measures of success, securing buy-in from users;
  • Be put into effect in phased, successive chunks that are short-term and narrow in scope and independently solve part of an overall mission problem;
  • Appropriately allocate risk between government and contractor, tie payments to accomplishments and use commercial technology.
All eight rules are to guide agencies in proposing IT spending in fiscal 1998 and will be the measures OMB uses to accept or reject such proposals, Raines warns. He says he recognizes some ongoing projects won't immediately comply with all eight rules. By Nov. 12, agencies were to have presented OMB with lists of their major IT investments and an evaluation of how well they adhere to Raines' rules.
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