GAO Says Agencies Could Save More with Better Application Inventory Practices

Published: October 06, 2016

Information TechnologyPolicy and Legislation

GAO found in a recent study, that only four out of the 24 CFO Act agencies had met all of the practices necessary to constitute completed inventories of software applications.

In 2012, OMB instituted the PortfolioStat process for agencies to annually review their commodity IT portfolio with the intent of identifying opportunities to reduce overlap, increase efficiency and achieve cost savings. Software rationalization is intended to be part of this process. 

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform asked GAO to review agency progress towards completing software application inventories and implementing processes for application rationalization.

Using four key software inventory practices as a baseline, GAO reviewed the inventories of the 24 CFO Act agencies.  For inventory processes to be comprehensive, they should meet the following four key practices, according to GAO:

  • Include business and enterprise information technology (IT) systems
  • Include these systems from all organizational components
  • Specify application name, description, owner, and function supported
  • Be regularly updated

GAO found that only DoD, DHS, Justice, and GSA fully met all four practices. Nine agencies fully met three practices. Six agencies fully met two practices.  Two agencies fully met one practice, and three agencies did not fully meet any practice.

GAO also selected six of the 24 agencies to review their software application rationalization processes in more detail.  Application rationalization involves streamlining the software portfolio to reduce redundancy and complexity, improve efficiency and lower total cost of ownership.  Rationalization can be achieve by retiring low-value or old applications, eliminating redundant apps, standardizing platforms, consolidating applications, and modernizing high-value apps.

GAO reviewed the application rationalization efforts of DoD, DHS, NASA, Interior, Labor, and NSF.  Each agency reviewed, used their existing investment management processes to rationalize their software applications.  In some cases, the agencies used supplemental processes.  “Five of the six agencies acknowledged that their processes did not always allow for collecting or reviewing the information needed to effectively rationalize all their applications.”  NSF stated that they believed their processes allow them to effectively rationalize applications, but GAO found that the agency’s supporting documentation for this claim was incomplete.

GAO recommends that 20 agencies improve their software inventory practices and that five of the six agencies reviewed for rationalization procedures improve their processes to make them more complete.