M Corp’s Nashville Journey: 2014 NASCIO Conference

In addition to taking place in a fabulously fun city, this year’s National Association of State CIO’s (NASCIO) conference in Nashville was a terrific opportunity to hear first hand thoughts about what is and what isn’t working in State IT.

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Additionally, NASCIO released its annual report, Charting the Course – Leading Collaboration During Uncertain Times. The survey, now in its fourth year, strives to understand state CIO priorities, concerns and interests. It’s a great way to start the dialogue about what’s important in state government from an IT perspective.

Large IT Project failures are under more scrutiny than ever, so it is not surprising that one section of the survey sought to understand how states are managing their portfolio of critical projects.

Large IT Project failures are under more scrutiny than ever, so it is not surprising that one section of the survey sought to understand how states are managing their portfolio of critical projects. There’s a large degree of variability across the states as to what constitutes a critical project, with most focusing on cost as the primary metric. States indicated that the effectiveness of governance and project management drive critical project success, yet project tracking itself focuses more on symptomatic metrics such as schedule variance, budget variance and overall perception of risk. While some rating systems evaluate the achievement of business objectives, states acknowledge that this can be a moving target and can be somewhat subjective, focused more on stakeholder acceptance than originally defined criteria. First and foremost, this suggests a disconnect between what really drives success and what gets measured.

What is more interesting is something, stated indirectly, that is entirely consistent with M Corp’s point of view: The single best way to increase the probability of a successful IT project is to reduce the number of unknowns. These unknowns include everything from organizational alignment, resource capacity, department capability, level of understanding of business operations, rules and requirements, and data quality and completeness. All of these factors, and several more, determine the success of a project and optimizing each by understanding and addressing weaknesses prior to a project’s start is critical. M Corp’s solutions, including our Readiness Measurement, Business Rules Mining Framework, Data Quality and Conversion Framework, and Analytics Roadmap all focus on exposing information so that it can be used for successful planning and management.

The survey presents this a bit differently, focusing on the indicators of complete knowledge instead of the knowledge itself. For example, CIOs who were surveyed identified the four factors having the greatest impact on critical project success are: effective sponsorship; effective project management; effective vendor and contract oversight; and effective procurement. The quality of each of these factors is both influenced by and influences the quality of information in use by the project. The more complete the information, the more able the stakeholders are able to manage the projects issues and risks. This drives success. Further, when asked for advice about how to make projects successful, respondents stated that having a single body focused on portfolio management from project selection to scheduling to evaluation to post-production value assessment – supports project success. This is because such a group has an enterprise view across the programs, with greater insight into capability, resource sufficiency, potential conflicting projects and organizational impact.

M Corp’s mission is to eliminate dysfunction. A great deal of dysfunction comes from a lack of information, as this lack results in swirl, delays and the ultimate need for rework and resultant schedule protraction. Budget insufficiency, a decline in stakeholder confidence, and ultimately, a reduction in the scope required to declare success soon follow – and, before you know it, another critical project has delivered far less than its intended value. It has failed.

We look forward to supporting states as they further evolve their thinking about project success; we look forward to closing the information gaps and eliminating dysfunction through our services.

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