Wisconsin Fights Failure

The Wisconsin state legislature has created a special group to study IT project cost overruns, called The Speaker’s Task Force on Failed Information Technology Projects. So far, they have scheduled monthly meetings running through August.

The Wisconsin state legislature has created a special group to study IT project cost overruns, called The Speaker’s Task Force on Failed Information Technology Projects.

So far, they have scheduled monthly meetings running through August. If these meetings stop in August, then little will be accomplished. On the other hand, if this task force becomes embedded as a standard part of Wisconsin’s IT process, then the state may well jump to the forefront of successful, public sector IT management.

The Wisconsin legislature has already released a lengthy document examining failed projects in the state. Here is a passage from the opening letter of that document:

In a detailed review of selected large, high-risk projects, we found evidence of inadequate planning that increased costs and compromised timeliness. Estimated costs for one project to customize software for administering the Unemployment Insurance program increased by $18.7 million, and another project was suspended after $23.6 million had been spent. In addition, sales and use tax software with a cost of at least $24.9 million is being replaced only five years after implementation. Two statewide IT consolidation projects have experienced significant delays and cost overruns. A third, intended to replace approximately 100 types of administrative software and projected to cost at least $66.6 million upon completion, requires close monitoring.

The Department of Administration (DOA) has broad statutory authority to oversee and coordinate state IT projects. However, its oversight has been inadequate. We include recommendations to improve DOA’s collaboration with other agencies in identifying high-risk projects and establishing planning standards, including quantifiable performance measures. We also include recommendations to enhance legislative oversight of high-risk IT projects.

Failed government IT projects are common, but accepting responsibility and driving long-term improvements is unusual. Good luck, Wisconsin! We will follow your story.

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