New Report on Government IT: Billions in the Balance

Public Spend Forum is excited to release our study of IT procurement in the federal government, “Billions in the Balance: Removing Barriers to Competition and Driving Innovation in the Public-Sector IT Market.” The report is the result of months of research and dozens of interviews, and can be downloaded for free.

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As has become commonly known since the struggles of Healthcare.gov became national news, the way the federal government purchases technology and runs large-scale technology programs has become deeply flawed. According to research, only 6% of large federal IT programs succeed, while the rest wallow in cost overruns, scope creep and schedule delays.

I believe readers will find in “Billions in the Balance” a unique look at federal IT failures, one that looks at it from not just a procurement perspective, but raises questions about how IT programs are managed, how leadership and better governance can head off problems before they start, and how more innovative technology can find its way into the federal space. Here’s an excerpt from the paper:

What problem are we solving? No alignment on problem or desired outcomes.

Many IT programs are doomed to fail because there is no clearly defined problem or agreement on what success looks like. “Does everyone know what they’re trying to achieve?” asks Phil Bertolini, deputy county executive and CIO of Oakland County, Michigan, and someone who White House leaders have identified as a “champion of change.”

Even worse, programs often don’t get a chance to define the problem or desired outcomes, because legislators have done it for them. Goals and timelines that don’t necessarily solve the real root issues leave a program scrambling from the start, to live by whatever unrealistic expectations may have been set for political reasons.

When a program does have the flexibility to define its goals, it’s a challenging process. Given the multitude of stakeholders for any given program, getting everyone to agree to common goals and outcomes is a Herculean task. It requires executives that stick around for a long time, strong program managers, and a willingness to push back. Often, these conditions don’t exist.

To read the whole paper, download it here for free.

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