Project Management

How to 'Pre-Stat' your IT

IAC Vice Chair Dan Chenok testified on May 8 about a framework for assessing major IT projects at their inception. (Photo: IBM Center for the Business of Government)

In looking at how to get value out of $80 billion in annual IT spending, experts are finding there is no single answer to ensuring that projects are delivered on time and in working order. But the public failure of HealthCare.gov to launch effectively last year is giving the problem greater urgency.

The government-industry group ACT-IAC (the American Council for Technology and the Industry Advisory Council), at the urging of federal CIO Steven VanRoekel, canvassed its members and held discussion groups to come up with some basic management principles and guidelines designed to make sure IT projects come off the drawing board with good prospects for success, and to help execute them once they are in production.

ACT-IAC calls the framework "7-S for Success," but a better tag might be Pre-Stat, as a nod to OMB's TechStat and PortfolioStat oversight programs. Basically, ACT-IAC has put together a framework that describes how a government organization can avoid IT pitfalls by engaging leadership at all levels in the IT governance process, and bringing modular, iterative, agile development to bear on projects, while being mindful of the need for security.

"We strongly believe that successful implementation of major IT programs requires an honest assessment by, and ongoing conversation among, program leadership and stakeholders regarding the health of the program. We also believe that how these leaders and organizations manage change as programs evolve, and support teams and individuals address needed change in a positive way, is a key element of success across the entire Framework," IAC Vice Chair Dan Chenok said at a May 8 hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee dealing with IT oversight.

Chenok noted that there are obstacles to developing and managing IT for government that don't have counterparts in the private sector, such as legal and regulatory requirements that can add time and cost to projects, onerous compliance requirements that often get priority over actual development, and a convoluted funding process. Legacy systems, Chenok said, can be expensive to replace and require big projects that don't lend themselves to iterative development, and expensive failures in public-facing system can generate unwelcome public attention.

The framework is divided into two sections. "Managing Up and Out" advises "stakeholder commitment and collaborative governance," "skilled program manager and team," and "systematic program reviews." The second section, "Managing Across and Down," includes, "shared technology and business architecture," "strategic, modular, and outcome-focused acquisition strategy," "software development that is agile," and "security and performance testing throughout."

The Seven-S framework, "does not constitute a checklist for compliance purposes," Chenok said. But it does offer a roadmap to program managers and senior executives for avoiding risk and embracing innovation in IT development and procurement.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is a staff writer covering Congress, the FCC and other key agencies. Connect with him on Twitter: @thisismaz.

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Reader comments

Thu, May 15, 2014 John Westra Colorado

Unlike the privTe sector, where qualified people at risk of losing their jobs work in the real world, most #GOV IT projects have no such constraints. We should fire/ban those who failed to deliver Healthcare.gov and hang those who lied about it for treason. Do this and future #Government IT projects will suddenly become lean and successful!

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