US Government CIO Pushes For Project Transparency

The new US CIO Vivek Kundra is hoping that by the end of this month he will have at the government's new public website a dashboard that will show the current status of more than 800 active government IT system developments costing $50 million of more. That should cover about $40 billion of the $70-75 billion the US government is currently spending on a total of some 10,000 IT projects/programs.

Mr. Kundra wants the website to contain up-to-date information on each project with their purpose, schedule and budget, along with the name and photo of the federal official responsible and the names of which contractors are working on the project. The CIO responsible for the project will also be asked to rate how he or she thinks that project is going based on risk, performance against metrics, customer satisfaction, and the like. It is expected that the rating will result in a health status measure of the project ranging from 0 to 10.

Hopefully a government IT project will be killed before it ever is allowed to reach zero. I suggest that Mr. Kundra think about freely invoking the IT mercy rule when IT projects start trending downward.

As noted here at Government Executive, Mr. Kundra's objective is similar to legislation called the Information Technology Investment Oversight Enhancement and Waste Prevention Act of 2009 (S.920) introduced by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Federal Financial Management Subcommittee Chairman Thomas Carper, (D-Delaware) along with Senator Susan Collins (R - Maine) last April.  The legislation calls for "real-time" transparency of IT project investments including establishment of a website that would on a quarterly basis display:

"(1) the cost, schedule, and performance of all major information technology investments using earned-value management data

(2) accurate quarterly information since the commencement of the project;

(3) a graphical depiction of trend information since the commencement of the project;

(4) a clear delineation of investments that have experienced cost, schedule, or performance variance greater than 10 percent over the life cycle of the investment;

(5) an explanation of the reasons the investment deviated from the benchmark established at the commencement of the project; and

(6) the number of times investments were rebaselined and the dates on which such rebaselines occurred."

I hope that Mr. Kundra also asks each project manager - along with the prime contractor if there is one - what they expect the project status will be in the next reporting. By comparing the current status against the predicted status, he'll be able to quickly see whether a project is starting to spin out of control.

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