In July, I wrote about Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki taking the unheard of decision to temporarily halt 45 information technology projects which are either behind schedule or over budget. These projects, Shinseki said, would be reviewed, and he and the VA's CIO Roger Baker would then determine whether individual IT projects should be continued or scrapped.
Government Computing News (GCN) reports this week that 15 of the 45 IT projects are going to be stopped or have their funding cut. Another 17 have committed to meeting milestones to deliver new functionality to customers, while the final 13 have been re-planned or restarted.
GCN quotes W. Scott Gould, Deputy Secretary of the VA., as warning the 17 projects that,
"... basically you've got 60 days. You tell us what that new schedule is and if you don't make it we're going to shut you down,... Many projects, frankly, are challenged by the inability to meet basic cost and schedule performance measures."
Gould made the remarks at the Executive Leadership Conference in Williamsburg, VA sponsored by the American Council for Technology and the Industry Advisory Council.
It is about time an organization held IT projects - government and contractor-led - accountable for their promises.
Secretary Shinseki, Deputy Secretary Gould and CIO Baker deserve praise for courage under what has been no doubt some political fire. I am quite certain that all three have been fielding phone calls from disgruntled US Congressman and Senators demanding to know why their constituent's IT project was canceled.
Let's hope their idea spreads across government, as well as into the commercial sector where too many projects are also abject blunders.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.