18 Oct Morgan, Anderson claim state IT project management is on the right track
Madison, Wis. – The secretary of the state Department of Administration and the state’s chief information officer told lawmakers Thursday they are confident that new project management practices would produce better results for information technology projects.
Mike Morgan and Oskar Anderson, appearing before the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, said new approaches to managing state IT projects have been put in place since the publication of a critical state audit, and that progress already is evident.
“I think we’re on the right track, and I think we’ve moved in the right direction,” Morgan told the committee.
Earlier this year, a state audit cited a lack of accountability and faulty project management for project delays and tens of million in cost overruns on several large, high-risk implementations.
The Legislative Audit Bureau report examined 184 IT projects in executive branch agencies, including 22 high-risk projects with combined projected costs of $184 million. The report contained recommendations for both the DOA and the Legislature to improve IT project management and oversight, and Anderson endorsed several of them in a report submitted earlier this month.
The two were was questioned about several troubled projects, including server consolidation that was supposed to produce millions in savings over a five-year period, but instead will cost an estimated $110 million when completed and will require state agencies to annually allocate funds to pay it off over 20 years.
Morgan said the DOA, in an effort to base IT project management on good practices and clear accountability, has tried to create a framework that includes greater collaboration between agencies. Part of the new management process is an independent validation and verification process in which teams comprised of experts in state agencies, consulting firms, or both provide an independent look at projects as they proceed.
“It’s a good approach we think is doable in managing IT projects, beneficial to agencies, and sustainable over time,” he said. “I’m confident this plan will improve both the management and results of IT projects.”
In terms of accountability, Morgan said there would be no confusion as to who has responsibility for a project, its progression, and completion. Project mangers, stakeholders, and vendors will be defined, and each project must have both an executive sponsor and a business sponsor. Project changes must be approved by the executive or business sponsor, but at the end of the day the agency secretary is responsible for results and “they are ready to step up to the plate,” Morgan said.
Morgan said legislative committees would be apprised of changes that result in cost increases, and that Anderson would be responsible for managing collaboration in various agencies.
Anderson also expressed confidence that new processes will improve way projects are conducted and monitored, and reported good progress in setting up the planning process and establishing standards. “One of things we’ve been criticized of is not doing things consistently, so we do have standards for procurement and contracting processes across agencies,” he said. “Another part is monitoring process. It’s one thing to have standards and another thing to follow standards.
“With combination of IT expertise supplemented by independent contracting help, we can do a good job of monitoring where projects are at.”
He said DOA and the IT community have reached an agreement on documentation so that agencies and the legislature can make judgments on the progress of projects. Existing high-profile projects have been identified by each agency and they will submit a “scorecard” report on Dec. 1 on the status of each project and whether it has the green light to proceed, whether caution is advised, or whether a red flag signals trouble.
After Dec. 1, the state will start the validation and verification process on new projects, Anderson said. IVV, which is used by the federal government, pertains to the monitoring of projects and examines all status reports and project documentation to verify whether a project is where it is intended to be.
“I would not guarantee there won’t be cases where the IVV team thinks a projects is not in as good a shape as being reported, but the key point is that it will be raised with people who can do something about it,” Anderson said.
Anderson also provided an update on three projects:
• For server consolidation, 178 servers have been moved from the state’s Wilson Street location to the new data center on Femrite Drive. Thus far, $40 million has been spent on the project, with another $25 million to be spent in the current fiscal year and a total of $110 million by the time the project is completed in 2010. The state is still working out the details of the payback plan for agencies.
• On the e-mail consolidation, 25 agencies have migrated to the new, consolidated system, with completion expected by the end of 2008. To date, the total cost program is $9.7 million, and the state projects a total price tag of $13.6 million, including the cost of operation, by the project’s end.
• A project director has been hired for the Integrated Business Information Services (IBIS) project, and DOA has “refreshed” request for bids on vendor support. Current plans call for a starting date of Nov. 1, with the first phase to be completed in March of 2008. The state has committed $10 million to the project so far, with another $16 million to be spent on Phase I. Questioned by State Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, on savings estimates for the IBIS project, Anderson said confirmed the most recent estimate of between $25 to $90 million.
Laying down the lawmakers
The information technology problems have resulted in partisan finger pointing, with Republicans faulting the Doyle Administration for a lack of oversight, and Democrats blasting GOP lawmakers for eliminating legislative oversight committees during previous legislative sessions. Among other things, the Audit Bureau recommended re-establishing the Joint Committee on Information Policy and Technology and the Information Technology Management Board.
Both parties agree that process changes are long overdue and both – including a Republican led IT Task Force – have endorsed some of the Audit Bureau’s recommendations.
The hearing was held at the State Capitol, still populated with people protesting the lack of a new state budget, and the lack of a spending blueprint is not aiding IT improvements, Morgan indicated. Without a state budget, Morgan said, “Frankly, we lack the funding to implement all the pieces of our plan,” citing a lack of funding for the IBIS system. He compared the situation to setting table for elaborate dinner without serving any food.
The committee is comprised of members of the State Senate and Assembly, and is co-chaired by State Sen. Jim Sullivan, D-Wauwatosa, and State Rep. Suzanne Jeskewitz, R-Menomonee Falls.
Sullivan praised the streamlined change of responsibility and the business sponsor concept. Sullivan said projects are customized to the nth degree, so there must be someone in an agency to assume responsibility for customization that leads to delays and cost overruns. He also said there has to be a valid business reason for it, and it requires legislative oversight.
State Sen. Alan Lasee, R-DePere, noted the audit report identifies significant cost overruns on a number of projects. He said called it puzzling and troubling that it’s commonplace for projects to have cost overruns.
“How could that be if you have a contract to provide the service? It should be a set amount,” he said, charging that vendors are taking advantage of the system.
Lasee added that contractors on transportation projects have incentives built into their contracts for “getting it done at cost” and penalties for not getting it done on time.
State Auditor Jan Mueller said the audit bureau has recommended a rule-making process for modifying project specifications “so there would be fewer surprises.”
Jeskewitz noted that project directors sometimes are hired to manage projects instead of state IT workers, which prompted an explanation from Anderson. With the IBIS project, he said the state advertised for someone with specific PeopleSoft experience because the state has a shortage of people with experience in PeopleSoft projects.
Another factor in the use of project directors is that DOA is reluctant to remove managers from existing projects, which would make it more difficult to follow through on the audit bureau’s recommendations.
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