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What Happens When Government IT Projects Fail?

It’s not JUST the billions of dollars that are wasted on ill-conceived and badly managed government IT projects that makes me angry.  It’s the compromising the value and effectiveness of those programs that really makes me angry.

It’s not JUST that these important government IT projects fail, either.  It’s that the government managers EXPECT them to fail.

A few years back I had a discussion with the executive in charge of monitoring large projects for a large state government.  An official state document reported year-after-year that as many as 70% of state IT projects failed.  Failure causes?  The usual reasons; poor requirements, lack of senior management involvement, failure to follow agreed-upon processes, project managers in over their heads…

When I offered to help address these issues with a program to monitor the risk factors that drive these project ‘results’ I was politely told, ‘No thanks.  We’re not interested.  We expect projects to fail.”   WHAT?!?!?

We need to do something as citizens, as taxpayers, as people who NEED these government systems to be effective.  We need to see ‘waste tolerance’ as a cancer that spreads throughout government, making mediocrity and failure acceptable.

For more background (and to get your blood pressure up a few points) here’s a link to a recent National Public Radio interview with Dr. Bob Charette on “Government Glitches: What Happens When IT Projects Fail“.  It’s 17:27 minutes, but worth the time it takes to listen to it.  Dr. Charette literally wrote the book on systems engineering risk management and spent decades trying to improve the results of government IT projects.  He knows what he’s talking about.

You should know what he’s talking about, too.

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