The Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) Board will set aside $100M for customer experience projects at federal government agencies and will take fast-track applications for the funds through August 1, 2022. This set aside is part of $750M that the Board is reportedly planning to allocate by the end of the fiscal year. I recently joined Francis Rose for an episode of The Daily Scoop podcast to talk about the funding available – and how decisions around TMF and other sources of funding for new initiatives are supported by collaboration between CFO and CIO organizations within government.
To be clear, that collaboration has been increasing in recent years. In fact, as Francis pointed out, he and I spoke about CIO-CFO collaboration as far back as ten years ago when I was Chief Information Officer at the Department of Commerce. I was joined for that conversation by Scott Quehl, who was the Department's Chief Financial Officer at the time. Francis pointed out that the level of collaboration that Scott and I prioritized was a big deal a decade ago – and he's right – but it's always been my leadership style that collaboration and cooperation should be a natural part of the work.
Fortunately, the collaboration between financial and IT leaders at the federal level is more commonplace today, so it's no longer big news. CIO and CFO organizations may still have different objectives and priorities, but today we're more often seeing an integrated program team style between different functions. That said, as I pointed out on the podcast, funding sources like the TMF should spur further increases in levels of cooperation between these organizations. Specifically:
- CFOs and CIOs should collaboratively weigh the funding options for projects and new initiatives
While TMF is a source of funding, appropriations bills are also still a source of funding to be considered for IT projects. CFOs and CIOs should be in conversation about the pros and cons of each funding type, potential discussions of technical priorities, and certainly the budget implications on the CFO side.
- CFOs and CIOs should work together to understand the projects most likely to be funded through appropriations and use that information to inform decisions around TMF requests
Taking my own experience as a CIO as an example: there were always multiple unfunded priorities and more projects we wanted to do than we could afford. So, part of the conversation between CFOs and CIOs needs to include an understanding of what is more likely to get funded by appropriators and use that information to decide priorities for TMF proposals. If you know the projects you can get funded through existing budgets or new appropriations, then you can reserve the TMF proposals for initiatives that are less likely to get funded through traditional budget processes.
- CIOs should bring CFOs into conversations about ROI and repayment terms
We’ve been hearing recently that there's been a relaxation of repayment terms, but presumably, these terms still need to be factored into ROI conversations. Specifically, when it comes to ROI, repayment terms, and repayment periods, the CFO organization can be helpful in shoring up the financial portion of the business case and making sure it’s well informed for decision making.
It's important to keep in mind that even if the TMF went away tomorrow if you want to get new funding for an initiative that is currently unfunded, you will need to do a business case. So, the work CFOs and CIOs collaborate on in preparing for the TMF is work that will be useful for other types of funding as well.
You can listen to the full podcast episode here (my conversation is featured in the second half).