02 Oct State technology chief endorses new approach to IT management
Madison, Wis. – With the goal of putting an end to, or at least curtailing new and costly information technology implementation failures, the head of the state’s Division of Enterprise Technology has issued a report that outlines new processes for information technology management in state agencies.
Referencing the 27-page report, titled “A New Approach to Information Technology Management,” Oskar Anderson said the state is developing processes that will improve the performance of state agencies in delivering on expensive, high-risk IT implementations.
Anderson’s report was compiled in response to a directive of the Legislative Audit Bureau, which earlier this year released a blistering audit identifying 184 information technology projects in state agencies – many of them plagued by delays and cost overruns – that cost a total of $291.7 million.
According to the audit bureau, most problems occurred in planning for complex, high-risk projects, and Anderson’s report provided an update on recommendations to improve project planning, monitoring, and oversight.
The report includes progress on a recommendation to select, in collaboration with executive branch agencies, a prescribed format for agencies’ annual strategic plans for IT, and a methodology for identifying high-risk projects. Anderson said the state has come up with a template for IT plans, one that can be updated “on the go” rather than on an annual basis.
In collaboration with executive branch agencies and the IT Directors’ Council, Anderson also set out to establish planning standards for large, high-risk projects, which have proven difficult to manage. He said the state will use a combination of state and federal standards to come up with a definition of high-profile projects, including any implementation that carries $1 million or more in project costs.
The state also plans to mark high-risk projects with federal criteria such as:
• Those projects undertaken by a government agency that has not consistently demonstrated the ability to manage complex projects.
• Any project that is highly visible to the public, including those pertaining to public safety.
• Projects in which delays or failures would negatively affect the central mission of the agency.
To enhance project monitoring, Anderson has been in consultation with the IT Directors Council to develop a number of proposals to drive routine monitoring of high-profile projects. He said Wisconsin has developed an Independent Verification and Validation process in which personnel from other state agencies or, lacking that, a contractor would monitor projects in other agencies to determine whether there is anything “out of whack” with project management procedures or business-IT alignment.
The IV&V also would examine project documentation to ensure that implementations are delivering what was promised.
Anderson also was directed to establish policies for the use and monitoring of the state’s master-lease program, which provides funding for agencies that need a capital financing mechanism for large IT projects. He said the Department of Administration, which includes the Division of Enterprise Technology, would issue an annual report on projects approved under the master-lease program, principle and interest paid, and which agencies have repaid debt.
Linda Barth, a spokeswoman for the DOA, said the state is attempting to create a better approach to IT management.
“Cumulatively, this shows there has been a high level of collaborative thought between the DOA and other state agencies to standardize how we proceed with these various IT projects,” she said.
Barth noted the new processes are for IT projects going forward, which are in limbo because of the failure to adopt a new state budget. “We’re wondering how many new projects will be going forward,” she said.
After wrapping up its investigation of state information technology failures, the Assembly Speaker’s Task Force on those failures recommended the creation of a bureaucratic post, state chief information officer, as a way of introducing more accountability to IT implementations.
In contrast, the audit bureau recommended that the Legislature consider reactivating the Joint Committee on Information Policy and Technology and the IT Management Board.
The Task Force’s recommendation came before news that an already-postponed overhaul of the Medicaid computing system is the latest state IT project to be set back by delays and higher costs. The state revealed last month that completion of the Medicaid Management Information System project, which is being implemented with contractor EDS Corp. of Dallas, would be delayed another three months.
The state also said that while cost savings still are expected to offset those higher expenses after the system is implemented, the total price tag had risen to $45.5 million on a project that originally was projected to cost $32.3 million.
The Medicaid Management Information System, which is supposed to run the state’s health insurance program for poor residents, was one of several projects identified as needing additional monitoring. The federal government is absorbing 90 percent of the system’s costs, while state taxpayers will pick up the rest.
Whereas the Speaker’s Task Force, which is comprised of Assembly Republicans and members of the private sector, has suggested a state CIO, the Doyle Administration is concentrating more on standardizing policies and procedures across state agencies. Matt Canter, a spokesman for the Governor, said the best way to increase accountability is to hold contractor’s accountable, and he said the state must find the expertise to negotiate computer contracts that protect taxpayer interests.
• Assembly Speaker’s IT Task Force calls for state CIO
• GOP, Dems split over funding of state technology projects
• Technology audit rips poor planning and oversight
• Oskar Anderson to succeed Miszewski as head of state technology division
• Third Wave reports clinical growth, continued loss