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FCW : April 15, 2015
20 April 15, 2015 FCW.COM Management spent more than a decade maturing its acquisition and program management and its ability to deliver programs. Those efforts finally got the agency off GAO’s high-risk list in 2014. “This is not really a technology problem as much as a skill and cul- tural one,” he said. “Culture is the big- gest issue.” Even with the recent passage of the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act, which gives federal CIOs more authority and oversight of projects in their agencies, “it’s hard to put these practices into place,” Spires said. FITARA should hold CIOs more accountable for large IT projects, but the legislation’s effects will take some time and could possibly extend into the next presidential administration. Quantifying performance Rick Holgate, CIO at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said efforts to quantify program management are bearing fruit, under initiatives such as the Office of Management and Budget’s TechStat. Those evidence-based accountability reviews of IT investments allow the government to terminate failing IT projects. Holgate, who is also president of the American Coun- cil for Technology, said the program has become more efficient at provid- ing measurable performance data on projects’ tangible objectives. However, more needs to be done. Softer, less measurable skills — intan- gibles such as knowing when a group or vendor involved in a big project is not completely committed to it or being able to deftly manage large groups of people and organizations — aren’t as far along as more mea- surable parameters and practices, Holgate said. Toward that end, last May ACT-IAC issued its “7-S for Success” Frame- work, which seeks to promote key success factors for major IT pro- grams through a comprehensive management approach that addresses major sticking points in federal IT acquisition. Even though the program is a year old, it has gotten trac- tion, according to Holgate and Industry Advisory Council Executive Chairman Dan Chenok, who also directs the IBM Center for the Business of Government. Over the years, the Government Accountability Office’s High Risk List has included big IT projects that were ultimately abandoned due to a lack of disciplined, effective manage- ment, including: • The Department of Homeland Security’s $1 billion Secure Border Initiative, a complex system involv- ing many sensor and security tech- nologies and a list of subcontractors. SBI was scrapped because it did not meet cost-effectiveness and viability standards. Along the way, members of the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Commit- tee and other federal officials had voiced mounting concerns about the program’s hefty management chal- lenges and technology misfires. • The Department of Veterans Affairs’ $609 million Financial and Logistics Integrated Technology Enterprise program. Intended for delivery by 2014, FLITE was termi- nated in October 2011 due to nag- ging management challenges. In 2009, a GAO report said the agency was “faced with significant chal- lenges in implementing FLITE’s pilot systems as planned, while simulta- neously working to fully establish program management capabilities.” • The Office of Personnel Manage- ment’s Retirement Systems Modern- ization. The program was cancelled in 2011 after the agency had spent approximately $231 million on its third attempt to automate the pro- cessing of federal employees’ retire- ment claims. GAO said the effort was weak in “key management practices such as project manage- ment, risk management, organiza- tional change management, system testing, cost estimating and progress reporting.” — Mark Rockwell “Acquisition reform is at the forefront worldwide. They’re recognizing the need to spend money more effectively and measure how they’re doing it.” CRAIG KILLOUGH, PROJECT MANAGEMENT INSTITUTE The price of poor program management 0415fcw_016-022.indd 20 3/24/15 1:55 PM
March 30, 2015
April 30, 2015