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NIEHS to Implement New IT Governance Committee

By Eddy Ball
February 2010

Jones, left, and Nicholas
Jones, left, and Nicholas are outlining ways to manage IT projects in an effective and transparent fashion as NIEHS takes advantage of advances in information technology to support its science. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Although most employees aren't aware of all that the NIEHS IT (Information Technology) Governance Committee (ITGC) does, staff will soon begin to reap the benefits of its efforts, according to NIEHS Chief Information Officer Heather Nicholas and Computer Specialist Robin Jones.

Over the next fiscal year, promised IT projects will pass through a transparent unified evaluation and approval process designed to eliminate any duplication of services, satisfy legal and infrastructure requirements, and, where possible, integrate resources across offices, labs, and divisions to better support the Institute's pursuit of cutting-edge scientific excellence.

"This is a new process for the entire Institute," Nicholas explained. "IT project management is a key part of governance, [and] it's a huge undertaking." By developing a systematic approach to IT project management, however, Nicholas and Jones expect to boost services Institute-wide while getting the greatest payback for IT dollars spent.

With this new process, Nicholas added, "We're getting all the requirements [for new IT projects] up front to be able to meet the customer's needs in a better fashion, while still keeping the big picture in sight.... My goal is to make sure that the Governance Committee is able to see what's coming up for the next year."

The inter-divisional ITGC (see text box) and Technical Review Committee will be looking at new projects to determine how they fit into the totality of NIEHS IT needs and resources. As well as saving money, Nicholas said, coordinated IT project management will further reduce backlog to get new projects up and running on schedule with fewer bugs.

During IT project review, committee members will perform a rigorous cost-benefit analysis on proposed projects and identify the approximately 20 percent of new requests that can be implemented with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products and support. Each project will also have a timeline for implementation, list of project benefits, and clearly defined steps toward implementation.

The ITGC will also prioritize enterprise IT projects according to criteria related to the Institute as an integrated whole:

• Mandated by regulatory agency

• Supports the NIEHS mission

• Makes a significant impact on science or administration

• Relates to an issue critical to health and safety

• Promises a positive return on investments

• Achieves a superior technical score

Makeup and Role of the ITGC

Members of the committee represent each division of the NIEHS/NTP. They are responsible for integrating the efforts of their respective communities, helping to identify their divisions' IT needs, communicating the total IT effort to their constituencies, and contributing to the overall transparency of the process. The ITGC also works hand-in-hand with the Technical Review Committee.

  • Office of the Director - Acting Deputy Director Steve Kleeberger, Ph.D.
  • Division of Intramural Research - Acting Scientific Director John Pritchard, Ph.D.
  • Office of Management - Associate Director for Management Marc Hollander
  • Division of Extramural Research and Training - Workers Education and Training Program Director Chip Hughes
  • National Toxicology Program - Acting Chief of the Programs Operation Branch Cynthia Smith, Ph.D.

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