OMB cracking down on IT projects gone wild

From “OMB calls for review of all IT projects” by Jason Miller on

“The Office of Management and Budget is taking aim at the worst 25-to-30 technology projects across government.

“In a memo issued today, federal chief information officer Vivek Kundra asks agencies to develop a list of their IT projects that are most at-risk because of cost, schedule, performance and/or leadership deficiencies by Aug. 23.

“‘[W]e are undertaking detailed reviews of the highest risk IT projects across the federal government to address these systemic problems,’ Kundra wrote.


“‘In order to justify future funding for these projects, agencies will need to demonstrate that project risks can be reduced to acceptable levels through actions such as setting proper project scope, defining clear deliverables and mission-oriented outcomes and putting in place a strong governance structure with explicit executive sponsorship. Projects which do not meet these criteria will not be continued.’

“Kundra says agencies should submit improvement plans for these most at-risk projects by Sept. 23, and should work internally on other problematic programs that don’t make the top 25-to-30 list.

“‘Agency proposed improvement plans should be based on thorough analysis of the projects’ issues and risks,’ he writes.

“‘Plans should be comprehensive, risk-adjusted, and reviewed through appropriate agency governance bodies. The plan may incorporate short and long term solutions that may extend through Budget Year 2012. If the agency CIO does not have high confidence in the probability of success of the investment, the agency CIO should recommend that the project be materially altered or terminated.’

“The most at-risk projects will go through TechStat sessions starting in September. Kundra writes these sessions will help inform the 2012 budget request and 2011 apportionment process.

“This latest memo comes about six weeks after OMB issued a similar mandate for reviews of all financial systems projects.

“Under the Bush administration, OMB put hundreds of projects on two separate lists: Management Watch List and High Risk list.

“As of October 2008, OMB reported that there still were 216 investments worth more than $20 billion on the management watch list. The Defense Department has the most projects on the list with 63, while the Veterans Affairs Department has 40 and the Agriculture Department has 37.

“The High Risk List had 549 projects worth more than $26 billion. DoD had the most with 75 projects, followed by the Treasury Department 69 and VA 52.”

Jason told me about the details of the memo, and we talked about how some of the provisions may affect the IT projects at your agency.