Large IT Project Success and Failure in Government

[part 3 of a 5 part series | part 1 | part 2 ]
My previous post described the organizational change management challenges with large IT projects. Public sector organizations have more challenges, particularly with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) implementations. There seems to be so many IT disasters in government. These disasters befall government organizations with high IT capacity. Consider the Government of Canada with on-going projects of:

There are numerous IT project failures in the US, UK and Australia. The American Government Accountability Office (GAO)has previously reported and testified that federal IT projects too frequently incur cost overruns and schedule slippages while contributing little to mission-related outcomes.

Special characteristics of Government IT

Governments inherit large IT project challenges. There are additional challenges:

Organizational Change Management in Government

My previous post provided a list of large IT change management actions. According to Panorama Consulting:We know from our own research that companies with effective change management and communications plans are 3.5 times more likely to outperform industry peers. In the public sector, this number is even higher. A change management plan includes taking the time to establish organizational readiness, conduct business process mapping, prepare workforce transition and training strategy documents, conduct change agent training, and prepare a change impact analysis.”
Additional organizational change management actions in government include:

  1. Stakeholder communication: There needs to be massive and persistent outreach communications using e-mail, newsletters, events, meetings, webinars that provides insight to why the project is good for the government and for public servants. IT must include feedback loops that identifies problems and opportunities early.
  2. Define success: Provide a clear definition of what success will look like and build it into the governance structure. “Make sure that there is a clear set of rules for who is in charge, what results are desired, and how decision-making is going to take place.”
  3. Acknowledge change:There will be resistance not only from the expected areas but also from unexpected and maybe even unknown areas. Be honest about this fact and address the naysayers by having a plan in place.”
  4. Dedicated team members: Implementation and management team members need to be dedicated to the project. Otherwise, team members are distracted by other operational concerns, with project priorities become implicitly lower. There must also be planned transitions for staff once the project is completed to reduce concerns.
  5. Eliminate perverse incentives: There should not be incentives for civil servants to accept delivery of incomplete projects, nor should civil servants feel that any sign-offs or acceptance is personally risky.
  6. Quick wins: Projects should be broken into many small deliverables beginning with prototypes. The demonstration of progress and the acceptance of user feedback goes a long way to overcoming change resistance.
  7. Eliminate scope creep: Provide an iterative delivery structure that provides planned functionality at milestones. Rather than add scope prior to the iteration, based on older systems, plan feature enhancements in context of the latest version.”Plan projects as a series of additional functionalities, so that people don’t feel they have to get their feature in the first release – think of it like trains leaving a station rather than one big bang.”



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