In a move that enhances transparency and budget efficiency, the General Services Administration’s Office of the Chief Information Officer has adopted a zero-based budget system.
As Casey Coleman, CIO at GSA, explained in a recent blog post, zero-based budgeting is as straightforward as the name implies. Each division within the Office of the CIO begins planning for the upcoming year’s budget as if it has zero dollars to work with. These divisions must then justify and demonstrate the need for each budget request they submit, making the budget a reflection of true need rather than a replication of the prior year’s budget plus inflation.
Zero-based budgeting requires OCIO to review every IT program for its role, necessity and cost and then match it against GSA’s top-level strategic goals. The system allows managers to better assess budget requests and understand the benefits derived from their budget expenditures, Coleman said. Managers will also be able to create an executable budget for IT activities.
In addition to the transparency benefits, the new system will also:
- Support a data-driven environment by allowing OCIO to provide consistent data within and across programs as well as reuse data to articulate to stakeholders where money has been spent and the outcomes supported;
- Enhance communication and collaboration by necessitating discussion among leadership regarding IT projects, how well they align with larger agency goals;
- Increase employee buy-in by requiring leadership to reach consensus on and communicate clearly which IT projects should and should not get funding;
- Eliminate waste by mitigating duplication, finding better alternatives and cutting funding for unnecessary projects;
- Guarantee IT project alignment with GSA’s core mission by liking expenditure with activities and allowing poorly defined areas to be defunded or reprioritized.