My friend Allan Holmes at NextGov has written a very interesting story on the new US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) CIO Roger Baker's plans to gain control over IT development there, which by the Department's own admission, has been less than stellar. Mr. Baker is moving aggressively to introduce a Program Management Accountability System (PMAS), which will require the VA to deliver systems and applications incrementally instead of using what Mr. Baker calls their previous "big bang" approach .

As the VA press release announcing PMAS states, a program will be required to:

"establish milestones to deliver new functionality to its customers in short increments of at most every six months.  Failure to achieve customer acceptance of a delivery by the committed milestone date indicates a problem within the program.  Under PMAS, a third missed customer delivery milestone will cause the program to be halted and re-planned.  Before the program can restart, substantial changes must be instituted, including a re-evaluation of the need for the program and the program approach, replacement of the program manager, contractors, and a portion of the government staff."

Mr. Baker told Government Executive that something had to be done to reduce risk and increase the stability and predictability of IT development in the VA. Baker said that he had:

"examined more than 280 IT projects and found many were at least 13 months behind schedule, more than half exceeded initial cost estimates and the quality of software had decreased substantially between releases."

Mr. Baker is expecting resistance from his IT shop, but his effort coupled with that of the US CIO Vivek Kundra's IT project transparency dashboard effort will go a long way towards overcoming it, I think. By shining a bright light on VA IT projects, Mr. Baker will hopefully start reversing what has ominously looking like a culture of IT failure.

Perhaps Mr. Kundra will also start thinking about following Mr. Bakers lead for the vast majority of US government IT projects. US state governments should take note of the VA's efforts as well.

The Conversation (0)

Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
Vertical
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar
DarkBlue1

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

Keep Reading ↓Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":["31996907"]}