Can Best Practices Help Govt Improve Project Management? They Can't Hurt

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OK, I know. Looking back at my blogs, it's probably starting to seem as if I am obsessed with the government's poor record on project management. But lately I've been intrigued by reports about how the federal government's use of Web 2.0 technologies such as software-as-a-service and wikis might help.

While I've previously spotlighted reports about the feds, it's great to see that states are tackling the problem as well. Exhibit A: a Wisconsin Technology Network item that relates therecommendations of a state Task Force on Information Technology Failures (ouch). They are:

  • Standardized written policies for IT project procedures, and uniform information technology policies and procedures across agency lines. Government agencies are finally starting to realize what manufacturers and other private sector companies have known for quite some time: Companies with standardized processes operate more efficiently and cost-effectively than their less-standardized peers.
  • Smaller projects. "Monolithic and gargantuan" scope is the first item on Baseline's list of Top 10 Project Pitfalls.
  • Expanding vendor-selection criteria to include a vendor's track record on similar projects. As InformationWeek reports, a group of vendors filed a lawsuit against the federal government in late 2007, alleging that the feds did not properly account for vendors' past performance, references and technical capabilities, as required by law.
  • Contract clauses requiring vendors to complete projects without additional payments, or to obtain prior approval to exclude the clause.
  • Use of off-the-shelf software whenever possible, and required approval for software customization. This provision could lead to increased use of software-as-a-service by government agencies, as some folks are predicting. A top Office of Management and Budget official recently signaled her approval of SaaS.
  • Executive sponsorship for all projects, and creating work environments in which employees can raise and resolve issues. The wiki being used by the budget office and other federal agencies appears to offer a great way to achieve the latter recommendation.