A new book, “The Operator’s Manual for the New Administration,” offers a few pointers on the role of IT on the road ahead.
TO: THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES
1. Begin with your policy and program objectives.
2. Get a handle on your ongoing IT projects before there is a crisis.
3. Make sure you have a capable, qualified and effective chief information officer.
4. Empower your CIO but have a process for reconciling IT and other imperatives.
5. Make sure security and privacy concerns are a priority for program managers.
Starting a project
Question: What questions should I ask at the start of an IT project?
- How does this project help my agency achieve its mission? Any project that comes to your attention will be significant. The program manager needs to be able to explain why it is important in mission or customer terms. Don’t accept justifications [such as] the need for the latest technology, compliance with a regulatory mandate or a previously made decision. Of course, these factors can be important, but they must be tied to how they help achieve the mission. The justification should be framed in mission terms.
- Who is the customer, and what does that customer want from the project? Meeting a need means there should be a customer who will say whether [the project] was successful. Make sure that the customer is engaged and looking forward to the results and that there is a process that balances customer desires with technical realities.
- Does the project management team have the wherewithal to deliver, and is there a management framework to give them a fighting chance? Any technology that matters will cross organizational lines in your agency and perhaps with other agencies. Success requires that you have a strong project manager and that there is a project management framework in place to work together effectively between those different organizations.
- Does the IT strategy make sense? It might seem the height of arrogance to second-guess the technology judgment of experts in the field. Nonetheless, there are some basics that you ignore at your peril. They involve architecture, proprietary versus standard solutions and what others are doing. New technology may solve a business problem but may be proprietary and lock you into a single [vendor] or very few vendors. If the approach is proprietary, why is it and what is the strategy to avoid being locked in?
Terminating a project
Question: What are the factors to consider in ending a project?
- Projects that are in deep trouble according to basic project-tracking criteria, such as milestones and budgets being missed by more than 10 percent, substantial changes to scope or redefinition of milestones, and the absence of engagement of key stakeholders.
- Projects that are no longer in alignment with the business strategy of the agency.
- Projects that customers no longer value. Even a project that looks great in terms of milestones and budget should be canceled if the customers no longer need or want it.
- Projects that depend on issues being resolved but for which no resolution is in sight.
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