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FCW : March 15, 2014
24 March 15, 2014 FCW.COM A CIO at a Fortune 500 corporation once told me that the single most important factor affecting the percep- tion of the IT organization is its abil- ity to successfully deliver programs. I absolutely agree. Opinions vary on how best to manage IT programs in government, including the role of agencies vis-à-vis contractors, best practices, effective acquisition life cycles and the best way to improve the procurements that sup- port the programs. I will address those areas in a series of columns, but let s start with the fundamentals. When I am involved in establishing a new large-scale, complex IT program or assessing the health of an ongoing program, I address ve key elements. Each is critically important, and if any one of them is not being addressed appropriately, risk rises signi cant- ly and can lead to outright program failure. Further, although it is critical to maintain constant vigilance regard- ing each element throughout a system s design, development and implementa- tion, most troubled programs make major mistakes right out of the start- ing blocks. Hence, I place tremendous importance on ensuring that a program properly addresses all ve areas as it launches. The rst key element is ensuring that a set of mature management processes is used to run the program. There must be an appropriate system development life cycle, which lays out the approach or approaches that will be used to design, develop, test and deploy the system. For complex IT systems, such as HealthCare.gov, there might be different approaches for the various subsystems. Modern development approaches, in particular modular ones, can help simplify and lower development risk. For instance, an agile methodology is appropriate for developing the user interface and business logic for cus- tomers to interact with a website. A more traditional development approach might be used for systems in which requirements and data spec- i cations could be de ned prior to development. The program must also establish a robust set of project management disci- plines, which include schedule, estima- tion, requirements, con guration and risk management processes. In com- plex IT programs that contain multiple subsystems, special focus should be BY RICHARD A. SPIRES Although there are countless opportunities to go astray, most troubled IT programs make major mistakes right out of the starting blocks The fundamentals of IT program management CIOPerspective I am surprised by how often there is not a solid high-level business architecture in place early in a program's life. SHUTTERSTOCK
March 30, 2014