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12/21/2011
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5 Lessons From Federal IT Project Reviews

TechStat IT oversight program saved more than $900 million, offers insights for IT managers from all sectors.

Federal Data Center Consolidation Makes Progres
Federal Data Center Consolidation Makes Progress
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
The federal government's investment in reviewing underperforming IT projects to see how they can be improved--a program known as TechStat--is paying off.

Federal agencies have achieved nearly $932 million in cost savings since they began project oversight through the review program, U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel said recently, and the Federal CIO Council has now released a report of lessons learned from instituting the TechStat program.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) launched TechStat in January 2010 to oversee reviews of troubled IT projects. By December 2010, the OMB had handed over the program to agencies themselves, who have since carried out IT project oversight.

[ Learn more about VanRoekel's priorities for 2012. See White House Moves To Future-Proof Government IT. ]

Through their work, agencies identified five key lessons learned to engage in effective TechStat reviews. They are:

1. Collaborate with investment managers to develop agreed-upon action items. Rather than placing blame on someone in charge of an underperforming program right away, agencies learned to focus more on problem resolution and open communication to reach a constructive outcome.

2. Shift broad project reviews to focused strategic assessments. TechStat is not the first time agencies reviewed IT projects. However, previous reviews were too broad and saturated with information, making it difficult to resolve problems, according to the report. TechStat, however, allows agency CIOs and project managers to address specific issues and assign due dates and accountability for positive changes.

3. Engage senior management in investment reviews. Getting to the root of problems with IT projects can do no good if project managers have no authority to institute changes that could improve them. Therefore, TechStat boards should include senior-level leaders such as CIOs and CFOs to make the "difficult decisions required to turn-around underperforming projects," according to the council.

4. Integrate TechStat reviews into the agency's broader IT management framework. Rather than view TechStat as a siloed review process, agencies should take a more holistic approach and integrate it into review processes for other agency investments as well. "Integrating TechStats with other existing review processes will reinforce efforts to institutionalize rigor, discipline, maturity, and control into the IT project planning and management life cycle," according to the CIO Council.

5. Customize the TechStat process and focus based on the size and level of agency federation, and consider collaboration and openness levels within the existing culture. While agencies have been successful at implementing a general model for TechStat, there is a need to tailor the program to meet the individual requirements and culture of each organization, the CIO Council found. Flexibility will be key to continued success in implementing the model in the future.

How 10 federal agencies are tapping the power of cloud computing--without compromising security. Also in the new, all-digital InformationWeek Government supplement: To judge the success of the OMB's IT reform efforts, we need concrete numbers on cost savings and returns. Download our Cloud In Action issue of InformationWeek Government now. (Free registration required.)

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