Pressure on agencies to deliver more with less and the inability of executives to say “no” to ministers has led to alarmingly high failure rates of government ICT projects in Australia, a new report claims.
The damning report on government ICT projects from the Victorian Ombudsman in Australia
says successful delivery of major ICT projects seems to have become “beyond the wit” of government, despite decades of development of project and systems development methodologies, gateway reviews, risk-management and procurement frameworks, and major project governance processes.
Ten of the largest in-flight ICT-enabled projects were reviewed, comprising the bulk of the ICT investment program funded during the period 2003-2007. All of the projects failed to meet expectations and all ran on average 100% over budget.
Two of the projects reviewed came in at more than three times their original budgets - and some failed outright after consuming over AU$100m of government funds.
Commenting on the report, analyst Ovum said: “The poor performance of these projects is actually a symptom of the inability of the most senior executives in departments and agencies to successfully plan and execute modernization and transformation of the business processes for which they are responsible. This should be deeply concerning to any government because ICT is now core to the delivery of virtually all public services.
“It is time that governments faced up to the fact that ICT-enabled project failures are primarily caused by the diffusion and obfuscation of accountability. These projects are now core business in the public sector, and accountability for their success needs to rest clearly and unequivocally at the most senior levels of the bureaucracy,” the analyst adds.
The Omudsman’s report makes 58 recommendations that it says if adopted will improve the way that current and future ICT-enabled projects are planned and delivered. But Ovum is sceptical that more recommendations will succeed in addressing a fundamental malaise in the way ICT projects are delivered: “The situation calls for some deeper introspection into the basics about the way decisions are made in the public sector and the way executive accountabilities and responsibilities are aligned,” Ovum says.
In October the UK Government announced a new Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) to run alongside its ICT Strategy to fundamentally change how government incorporates ICT into its everyday business.
At the time, the Cabinet Office said “success or failure of government ICT depends on greater business preparedness, competency in change management and effective process re-engineering".