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Failure to Launch: How to Fix Government IT Problems

We all know that there is no shortage of transformational ideas or exceptional public servants in government, working to improve how agencies operate. IT holds unbelievable promise to streamline processes and change the business of government. Although this potential is clear, we have seen agencies struggle to completely leverage IT. Instead of a gateway to opportunity, IT projects are becoming a burden on government.

How do we change that? Recently Pegasystems published, Why Government Projects Fail by Cathy Novak, Industry Principal, Public Sector, Pegasystems. This report not only details the most common reasons why government IT projects fail, but also suggests a series of solutions to overcome these challenges.

According to the report, “Anywhere between 65 and 80 percent of government IT projects either fail, do not meet their stated objectives, run significantly late or cost far more than planned.” That doesn’t have to be the case anymore. By taking some proactive steps and learning from failed initiatives, you can set up your agency for success. Instead of pointing fingers, this report will help you and your colleagues understand the systemic factors behind failures and ensure your ideas do not fall victim to them.

The e-book is free to download and we strongly recommend that you take a look. For now, here are two of the most common obstacles standing in the way of turning your great ideas into a successful project in government, followed by two solutions:

1. Barriers to Collaboration

We all know there is no “I” in team, but organizational structure often makes us forget that. “Most projects still create strict divisions of labor between business people and IT,” said Novak. “This inability to collaborate frustrates people in both groups.”

This lack of a communication can negatively impact project management every step of the way. IT projects are uniquely complex in government, and agencies must fulfill the requirements demanded by various stakeholders. This means IT leaders are often making business decisions while business leaders are faced with making judgments on technology. All too often, personnel are forced to make decisions without the opportunity to consult expert colleagues outside of their department. Without a high level of collaboration, your IT initiative is in trouble.

“You have the perfect storm,” argues Novak. “Business has undoubtedly missed some requirements. Lacking intimate knowledge of the business, IT has misinterpreted requirements. So much time has passed, important changes- new agency requirements, different priorities, advancements in technology- are not reflected in the delivered solution.”

2. Technology Implementation

The failures in IT projects usually have little to do with the technology itself. Instead, mistakes result by focusing too much on the software development and focusing too little on implementation. “Technology is not the primary reason projects fail,” explained Novak. “… It is the lack of flexibility to make changes and integrate legacy systems that cause failure.” Projects can take up to months, even years, to get from initial idea to implementation. Think about how much can change during this time, from technology to budget to personnel.

Fortunately, Pega has not just identified these systemic factors in their publication, they have also detailed clear and feasible solutions in the their guide.

1. Solution: Break down divisions

Departments exist in organizations to help personnel focus on their field of expertise to contribute to the mission. IT projects, in contrast, should be thought of as their own separate mission that requires a team that transcends compartmentalization. Novak calls this project leadership style “a unified environment.” How do you create one at your agency? “A unified environment orchestrates interactions between existing systems, gathering and using the data required to complete a process regardless of where the information resides… [this] enables transparency on an enterprise scale by supporting the widest array of integration,” Novak said.

2. Solution: Expect the Unexpected

Project management has evolved to allow for missed deadlines and budget cuts, but government projects have a unique set of potential pitfalls. “Government activities are people-intensive, change often and typically require more than one touch point,” Novak pointed out. In government, it could be new policies and procedures that could derail a project. In some cases, a new political appointee could shift priorities in the middle of implementation. Government IT projects must be structured around these obstacles.

Want to make your next project a success? Open up the Pega e-book and find all the guidance you need.

Pega is the best platform for modernizing government case-centric applications. We enable government agencies to uniquely address one of their most critical challenges, - the need to respond predictably and timely to continuous change. With Pega, agencies improve their ability to respond to change by 5X by automating the documentation, automating the programming, and automating the work. Government organizations around the globe are powering transformation at every level using Pega. Learn more at http://www.pega.com/solutions/by-industry/government

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