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State technology chief endorses IT audit recommendations

Madison, Wis. - The new head of the state Division of Enterprise Technology is promising full compliance with recommended improvements contained in a recently released audit of state information technology projects.

Oskar Anderson, administrator of the DET since late February, said he concurs with all the recommendations contained in the audit report. Among them is the suggestion that executive-level agencies report by Oct. 1 of this year to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee on seven high-risk IT projects examined in the audit.

“I've agreed to comply with the recommendations in the report and will be spending some time over the next few months preparing to respond in October,” Anderson said.

The Division of Enterprise Technology is part of the Department of Administration, which is taking much of the heat for the IT implementation failures. The audit, which criticized the lack of oversight by DOA, also recommended that the department establish standards for large, high-risk projects, for improved project monitoring, and for policies related to the use of the state's master lease program.

Pat Henderson, an executive assistant with the DOA, said the department is equipped to follow through on the Audit Bureau's recommendations. While most state agencies have seen workforce reductions in recent years, Henderson said DOA has added staff to handle IT consolidation projects.
The Audit Bureau report noted that two of three consolidation projects, which involve server and e-mail consolidation, have been hindered by poor planning.

Mid-course corrections

Anderson succeeded Matt Miszewski, whose abrupt management style was given much of the blame for the IT problems. Anderson said he is working with the state IT Directors Council, which is comprised of state agency employees, to create a better atmosphere for mid-course corrections.

While some view such changes as risky, Anderson said large IT projects have a tendency to expand over the course of time, so it's important to view mid-course corrections as "a good thing.”

Anderson's views on mid-course corrections represent a growing consensus among state officials. State Sen. Robert Cowles, a member of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, recently said he would not find fault with an agency that “threw out” a piece of software if it became clear that it was not going to work.

Anderson said faulty vendor software was the reason the Department of Revenue had difficulty adapting sales and use tax software to its integrated tax system, a project that was cited in the Audit Bureau's report. In that situation, Anderson said there was no criticism of the Request for Proposal process or the vendor contract, but the software that was delivered was “not up to the standards it should have been.”

Anderson said one way to improve the system would be for state agencies to share information about best practices, and Henderson said the Doyle Administration is trying to improve RFP and procurement by establishing a core group of attorneys to offer counsel especially for that purpose.

Anderson also indicated that the state does not have a significant problem with the over modification of packaged software. State Sen. Ted Kanavas, R-Brookfield, has suggested that extensive software modifications have contributed to the state's IT difficulties, but Anderson said the goal is to go into a software product without modifying it. He said meeting that goal begins with selecting a good product.

Morose morale?

A number of state employees have raised morale issues in response to WTN stories about state IT implementation failures, but Anderson does not believe there is a widespread morale problem.

“Any organization always has some morale issues, but the DET workers seem to be good and the IT Director's group is an enthusiastic bunch,” Anderson said. “Overall, the culture seems to be good, but nobody likes the fact that we've had some projects that haven't turned out the way we would have liked.”

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Tim Nuckles responded 8 years ago: #1

The multiple references to "more oversight" in this and other articles, and the Legislative Audit Bureau's Report, may be misleading. "Better oversight," with its connotation of effectiveness, is what we need. Simply increasing the number of watchdogs, and the frequency with which they watch, is no solution. It is apparent that the state needs a top-to-bottom reworking of its technology procurement and project management methodologies, including an apporpriate degree of meaningful and effective oversight by the Department of Administration.

Tim Nuckles

state it work responded 8 years ago: #2

Oskar has no choice but to endorse the IT audit recommendations. For 6 months he will change nothing and right after he finds out we are compliant, DET will be re-organized for the umpteenth time. Musical chairs is a great way to alleviate accountability. As is the case with many of the projects, they keep trading places on who works on them.

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