A report has been released by the TechAmerica Foundation which analyzed the methods used by the Federal Government when acquiring major IT systems. In a nutshell, it found those methods lacking, especially when compared to the private sector. There are four major recommendations listed in the report that TechAmerica believe would help the Government improve IT acquisitions.
Develop a Professional Program Management Capability
It was found that program management is sorely lacking in even major acquisitions. For instance, it is often harmful to a persons career to be named a program manager. There is no recognition, benefit, or advancement that can be gained from such a position, thus there is no one person to guarantee continuity from start to finish. Combined with a lack of staff, and a lack of funding, this is an area that needs major improvements.
Promote Agile/Incremental Development
Agile is a method of development that focuses on incremental additions to a project with constant input from the consumer. There is no question how this could be beneficial. The benefits specifically stated in this report are “’Faster to Field’ Deployment, Lower Risk, and Less Rework and Lower Cost.” While agile development is not ideal for all situations, it would be a good thing to implement when it could help.
Strengthen Risk Management
There is no way to reduce risk completely, so this report recommends several things that can help to reduce that risk to manageable levels. For instance, there should be third-party reviews conducted to evaluate performance at any given milestone of a project. There should also be more risk management tools available for use, including experts to be called in when needed.
Enhance Internal and External Engagement
There is nothing more important than good communication, and that is an area that is definitely lacking externally and internally. There is a lack of dialogue between industry and government that is caused by fear. This fear stems from different sources: fear of losing competitive advantages, fear of delivering bad news, fear of favoritism claims, etc. This fear needs to end, and a new system of fear free communication set up to be advantageous for government and industry.
This is just a brief overview of the TechAmerica Foundation report. There are many more issues which were discovered as needing reform, and there are also many insightful solutions to those problems. One thing is for certain, without change things are looking bleak for the future of IT acquisitions by the Federal Government.