Sunday, June 24, 2012

Victorian Whole of Government ICT Strategy

The Victorian government has announced work on a Whole of Government ICT Strategy. This follows an Ombudsman and Auditor-General released a "Own motion investigation into ICT-enabled projects" (November 2011).

The Ombudsman and AG looks at ten major Victorian IT projects which were over-budget and under performed. The best known of the problem projects is the MyKi smart ticketing system. The problems found are common to IT projects in the public and private sectors and the remedies will be familiar to any student of IT.

It is well know in the IT profession that many IT projects fail and that these failures are usually due to problems of project governance, not technical issues. When working for the Defence Department I part of a team which did a quick investigation of an IT project each week. These projects had sincere hardworking staff, who in most cases knew what was wrong, but were trapped in a system which would not admit failure.

Unfortunately, these days as an ICT consultant, I am called in only after a project has failed to be an expert witness in court cases, when blame is being assigned. Given a pile of project documents about a metre high, I can usually find the point (about one third from the start of the project), where it started to go wrong. This is where the project plan said the project was to meet a milestone, but did not. Rather than stop the project at this point and rectify the problem (or cancel the project), the management choose to keep going and hope for the best, which does not happen.

This "hope for the best" attitude is something I help teach IT students at the Australian National University to avoid. It will be interesting to see how the Victorian Government's new strategy evolves.

Some excerpts from the 125 page report:
Executive summary
  • Common themes
  • Framework to better manage ICT-enabled projects
  • What is ICT?
  • History
  • Investigation
  • Cabinet documents
  • CenITex
  • Report structure
Common themes
  1. Leadership, accountability and governance
  2. Planning
  3. Funding
  4. Probity and procurement
  5. Project management
Framework to better manage ICT-enabled projects and recommendations
  1. Leadership, accountability and governance
  2. Planning
  3. Funding
  4. Probity and procurement
  5. Project management
Case studies
  1. Link
  2. HealthSMART
  3. myki
  4. RandL
  5. Client Relationship Information System (CRIS)
  6. Ultranet
  7. Integrated Courts Management System (ICMS)
  8. Property and Laboratory Management (PALM)
  9. HRAssist
  10. Housing Integrated Information Program (HIIP)


Framework to better manage ICT-enabled projects ...

Leadership, accountability and governance
• Agency executives are to show stronger leadership; robust governance practices are to be implemented; and project staff are to be held to account for the performance of ICT-enabled projects.
• The role of DTF in ICT-enabled projects is to be enhanced and the value of Gateway as a mechanism for external oversight and accountability is to be capitalised.

• Business cases for some of the projects I examined were not subjected to adequate scrutiny. I have made recommendations to improve the level of scrutiny applied. The government’s ’high-value and high-risk’ process introduced in 2010 also provides for increased
scrutiny of business cases.

• Agencies are to adopt a whole of life approach to costing and funding major ICT systems and DTF is to assist by establishing a maintenance and replacement fund for these systems.
• The government is to consider refining how projects are funded to make agencies more accountable to government throughout the life of major ICT-enabled projects.

Probity and procurement
• Agencies are to adopt stricter probity practices.
• Agencies are to adopt robust approaches to purchasing ICT systems; DTF is to explore the potential to harness best practice procurement practices from other countries; and the Victorian Government Solicitor’s Office is to examine and endorse all proposed contracts before they are signed to ensure the contract protects the interests of the state.

Project management
• Agencies are to adopt established project management methods.
• DTF and the State Services Authority (SSA) are to develop strategies to recruit and retain skilled ICT staff within government and better monitor the quality of work provided by contractors. ...

3. myki

Key issues
• The project is at least $350 million over budget and at least four years behind schedule.
• The Transport Ticketing Authority (TTA) was overly optimistic in believing it could achieve a two-year delivery of the system: less than half that achieved elsewhere in the world.
• The project proposed an ‘open architecture’43 solution: an approach not previously undertaken, heightening associated risk.
• The ‘outcomes-based’44 agreement proved problematic to manage and led to ambiguities and specification ‘creep’.
• Two Chief Executive Officers departed the TTA shortly following failure by the TTA to meet key delivery dates.
• Initially, the TTA board did not have the requisite number of appointees with relevant experience when needed.
• The Department of Transport (DOT)45 had responsibility for ticketing policy issues, but did not have a representative on the board. In my view, it should have.
• The TTA was highly critical of the quality of the project managers employed by the vendor. ...

From: Own motion investigation into ICT-enabled projects, Victorian Ombudsman and Victorian Auditor-General, November 2011

No comments: