How to manage a major gov't project

The State Services Commission makes repeated reference to the desirability of integrating government computer systems from different agencies in its guidelines on management of major IT projects, published this week.

The State Services Commission makes repeated reference to the desirability of integrating government computer systems from different agencies in its guidelines on management of major IT projects, published this week.

The guidelines are the successor to a document entitled “Principles and Good Practices for selecting and managing IT in Govenrment,” issued in 1998. The new document fleshes out the expected practices for deciding which IT projects to implement, evolving a proper business plan and ensuring good governanace of the project in its planning and implementation.

The 71-page document is peppered with phrases like “ensure the project is in line with e-government strategy.”

SSC spokesman Hugh McPhail agrees this is a significant new emphasis compared with the last iteration, or even with April, when the issue of the new document was first signalled. One of the criteria for defining a “major project” is a project has a “significant impact on more than one government agency,” even if it is not expensive or time-consuming.

The April announcement was in the wake of the report by former Tranz Rail chief Francis Small on the failed police Incis project, and draws a number of lessons from that, McPhail says. Significant among those is increased attention to the business case and governance aspects.

In the later pages of the guidelines the danger of using unproven and still fluid technologies is identified – though puzzlingly, this is not identified up front as an element of risk analysis. The use of object-oriented technology, at the time immature, in Incis was reckoned by a number of industry sources at the time of the project’s demise to have been a significant factor in its insurmountable difficulties, and this was confirmed by the Small report.

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