Center publishes business case guide

"Making Smart IT Choices"

The Center for Technology in Government (CTG), an applied research center affiliated with the State University of New York at Albany, recently released a new guidebook to help government officials develop business cases for information technology investments.

As struggling state and local agencies slash spending across the board, suspending or eliminating technology programs and laying off workers, executives from all levels of government are requiring stronger collaboration among agencies and better proposals, which could include cost-benefit analyses, as they promote projects.

According to the guidebook, "Making Smart IT Choices," organizations "waste time, money and credibility on IT" because either the wrong technology is purchased, or it buys the right technology but implementation is faulty. Technical users develop systems without input from users or information on how people and processes really work. Failure rates generally range from 50 percent to 80 percent and sometimes can go even higher, according to the center.

The guidebook, based on CTG's tested methodology, points out particular problems the public sector faces, such as: limited decision-making capabilities, multiple stakeholders with competing goals, short-term budget cycles, a highly regulated competitive bidding process, lack of cross-agency structures exacerbated by cultural barriers, and an extreme aversion toward risk-taking. Donna Canestraro, a CTG project support manager, said the guidebook provides tools to "help eliminate some of the shortcuts to failure" in building better business cases.

Mark LaVigne, CTG's communications manager, said the guidebook helps managers develop problem statements in line with their mission and identifies all stakeholders and their interests. It then leads them through the process of collecting and analyzing information, and discusses developing timelines and cost estimates, project management and staffing considerations, performance measures, and alternatives for solving a problem.

CTG will soon offer a second installment, which will include descriptions of dozens of tools and techniques for building business cases, additional reading materials, and specific case studies.

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