Oversight

HUD falters at project management

magnifying numbers

A GAO audit has revealed shortcomings in HUD's management of two modernization efforts.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development needs to improve its use of project management practices in two of its key modernization efforts, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Since 2010, HUD has been working to modernize its IT systems through the department's Transformation Initiative. The two largest modernization efforts are the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Transformation and the Next Generation Management System (NGMS).

FHA Transformation was created to improve management of insurance programs by creating a more modern IT environment. NGMS was created to enhance HUD's affordable housing program, streamline complex business processes and integrate disparate IT systems into a modernized common platform.

GAO surveyed nine of the 10 FHA Transformation projects and five of the six NGMS projects from June 2012 to June 2013. GAO assessed those projects against best practices identified by the Project Management Institute (PMI) and the Software Engineering Institute, which include project planning, requirements management and acquisition planning.

At A Glance

GAO recommended that HUD:

  •  Establish a plan of action to fully implement best practices;
  •  Provide needed project management expertise, and;
  •  Improve the development and use of its project management framework and governance structure.

GAO's report states that although HUD has taken steps toward implementing project management practices, it has yet to completely execute all of them. "Without fully implementing these practices and effectively developing and using its framework and governance structure, HUD risks investing its resources on projects that may not meet critical mission needs," the report states.

Although most projects were developed in terms of key project management practices, none of the projects in FHA Transformation or NGMS contained all the essential information necessary to meet best-practices requirements.

GAO assessed HUD's projects in six categories: project charter, work breakdown structure, project management plan, requirements management plan, requirements traceability matrix and acquisition strategy. None of the projects in FHA Transformation or NGMS had complete work breakdown structures. PMI's best practices state that a work breakdown structure is "the cornerstone of every project because it defines in detail the work necessary to accomplish a project's objectives and provides a basic framework for a variety of related activities."

NGMS officials told GAO that they have plans to fully develop those structures but did not give specific dates.

GAO also found that although most of the projects had charters, they did not have clear accountability. At least two projects under both initiatives lacked development in four of the six categories.

HUD officials largely concurred with GAO's recommendations to improve their framework and governance but noted that one recommendation – to have steering committees for each project to ensure that project management expertise is provided -- did not follow from the premises in the report. HUD officials, as cited in the GAO report, said the department already has ample talent, and adding more would probably not improve things until it takes other steps to apply better project management practices.

About the Author

Natalie Lauri is an editorial fellow at FCW. Connect with her on Twitter: @Nat_Lauri.

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