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FCW : August 30, 2014
Good news: We no longer have to talk about mega- scale IT projects. Large-scale ventures that typi- cally cost $1 billion or more, megaprojects used to be all the rage, but they are quickly being superseded by petascale IT initiatives. Those projects can cost even more, involve complexity on a truly mas- sive scale and require peta ops of computer processing. Despite the horrendous track record of delivering on even moderately complex IT projects, public-sector CIOs continue to embrace the design, planning and execu- tion of petascale IT projects. Consider the Department of Homeland Security s SBInet, a component of the Secure Border Initiative. The $8 billion project commenced in 2006 and aimed to place surveillance systems along the southwest border of the U.S. to prevent illegal crossings. In 2010, SBInet was halted and many of the project s funds were diverted to other border initia- tives. The project was riddled with problems, including cost overruns, poorly de ned schedules, missed deadlines, inadequate oversight, an unclear strategy on how to actu- ally secure the border or manage threats, poor engagement with contractor Boeing, and poor performance on the part of the company. Calling a petascale IT project complex would be a huge under- statement. Such projects not only have numerous stakeholders, they also span multiple time horizons (e.g., election cycles, brief CIO ten- ures at agencies, etc.). They rely on multiple physical and logical infrastructures --- each of which might be owned, controlled and oper- ated by multiple players --- and they have overly restrictive and detailed budget allocations that prevent quick changes in response to events. Furthermore, they are technologically complex from both innovation and design perspectives, and there is limited ability for leaders to learn from previous efforts because all projects of this scale are unique. And those are just some of the issues that occur in petascale projects. The high cost of complexity Those challenges manifest themselves in the time, effort and cost involved in the projects. Cost overruns in particular are a signi - cant way in which many projects are determined to be a success or failure. One notable megascale IT project that experienced a 560 percent cost over- run was the Medicare Transaction Sys- tem. In the 1990s, this system was set to modernize Medicare to better serve the 38 million Americans who are over the age of 65 or have a disability. The project was plagued with unnecessary risks, delays, unmet deliverables, poorly detailed plans, an over-reliance on contractors, frag- mentation, and a poor understanding of the existing system and contractor duties. More recent projects, such as the October 2013 launch of HealthCare. gov, show that IT failures are not an issue of the past. Other failed projects include DHS software upgrade to its terrorist-tracking system. The $500 million Railhead project had a team of 862 contractors and yet was riddled with architectural and quality aws. In addition, the Air Force spent seven years and more than $1 billion to merge 240 legacy systems into 12. Unfortunately, the Expeditionary Combat Support System (ECSS) was halted due to extreme technical glitch- es and delays. The FBI s Virtual Case File system lost $170 million before being canceled, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services went $190 mil- lion over budget on an automation August 30, 2014 FCW.COM 19 This initiative was killed after $1 billion of development. Delays, cost overruns and poor oversight led then- DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to conclude that "SBInet cannot meet its original objective of providing a single, integrated border security technology solution." SBInet
September 15, 2014
August 15, 2014