VA pulls plug on failing IT projects, saves $54M

12 underperforming projects terminated; 32 get second chance

The Veterans Affairs Department has terminated its Enrollment System Redesign, Pharmacy Reengineering and 10 other failing information technology projects for a projected savings of $54 million this fiscal year, officials announced today.

The enrollment systems project was budgeted at $24 million, and the pharmacy project at $23 million, for fiscal 2010.

Other canceled VA IT projects included the Barcode Expansion, Delivery Service, Rights Management Server and VA-Defense Department Laboratory Data Sharing and Interoperability terminology support.

The 12 canceled IT projects were among 44 IT projects halted by VA officials in July 2009. Chief Information Officer Roger Baker today released the list of the 12 terminated projects and 32 restarted projects.

To improve management of ongoing projects, Baker said that as of Feb. 15 every IT project in the department, and about 250 IT projects overall, are being managed through the Program Management Accountability System introduced in July. The system requires IT projects to deliver new functionality within six months and to meet project milestones. The VA also is using an online IT dashboard to identify and track troubled projects.

“Today, under the leadership of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and CIO Roger Baker, we are taking major steps in relentless management across the IT portfolio,” Vivek Kundra, White House chief technology officer, said in a conference call today.

Baker said that while the goal was to put IT projects on the accountability system as soon as possible, it took several months to identify and terminate contracts associated with the canceled projects. “We have been ready to put everything under PMAS. We needed a repeatable process,” Baker said in the conference call. “Every VA IT project now has a deliverable in the next six months.”

Among other terminated VA IT projects are Chemistry and Hematology automation, Organization Service, Modification to Case Management, Radiology Standardization and what the department calls the Scheduling Replacement program. VA officials did not immediately respond to an inquiry of whether that refers to the Replacement Scheduling Application Development Program or to an earlier scheduling replacement system project.

The National Teleradiology Program was listed as a restarted program; however, one of its components was canceled.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Wed, Mar 3, 2010 Frank

The issue on many IT projects has to do with complexity, poor leadership, and red tape. To get anything done you have to run a gauntlet of checks and balances that don't really check or balance anything. We are fleasing ourselves into bankruption because no one can be counted on to do a good job without a million dollar bonus!

Thu, Feb 25, 2010 Steve Romero, IT Governance Evangelist San Francisco

I was excited to see the headline for this article because I LOVE killing projects - as long as it is the result of reasoned and rational decision-making associated with sound Project and Portfolio Management discipline and processes. I hope this is the case, as opposed to one of the sage comments above citing the potential downside of "arbitrary" criteria to make complex project, program and portfolio decisions. Steve Romero, IT Governance Evangelist

Thu, Feb 25, 2010

What's WRONG with cutting losses? How can anyone make such a siloed statement? Hmm, could you be a member of a project team one of the failures? It's a start and ALL CIOs (Dept-level & sub-Agencies) below had better be taking similar actions. This is LONG over due...VA is setting the bar for everyone!

Thu, Feb 25, 2010

I have worked in a systems environment with 6 month release cycles. The problem with an arbitrary 6 month timeframe is that it does not account for system complexity and does not impose any quality standards. So what happens is this: Software release is rushed to meet 6 month goal. Developers can only code so fast, so what is cut in order to meet the deadline is requirements analysis and software testing, the 2 things that ensure quality software. Because testing was cut, bugs will be released that need to be fixed later. So during the next 6 month cycle, an emergency release must be created to fix the bugs and at the same, development must be done on the next release. Now developers are pushed even harder, testing is more rushed, and the next release will have even more bugs to be fixed. The cycle continues until developers are pushed to the limit and burn out. Meanwhile, each release results in further degraded software until users no longer want to use it because it is unreliable. The focus should be on creating high quality software that is directly applicable to work that needs to be done and having releases within reasonable, not arbitrary timeframes.

Thu, Feb 25, 2010

This is pennies in the pot when the VA got $3.3Billion for IT in FY10.

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