Monday, December 23, 2013

The failure rate of large-scale government IT projects

The Standish Group, an information technology firm, deemed just 4.6 percent of large-scale government contracting projects executed in the past decade to be successful. More than half were “challenged,” and about 40 percent simply “failed.” ...

Outside experts, members of Congress, technology executives and former government officials say the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act’s website is the nearly inevitable result of a procurement process that stifles innovation and wastes taxpayer dollars. The Air Force last year scrapped a $1 billion supply management system. Officials abandoned a new F.B.I. system after spending $170 million on it. And a $438 million air traffic control systems update, a critical part of a $45 billion nationwide upgrade that is years behind schedule, is expected to go at least $270 million over budget. ...

Jim Johnson, the chairman of the Standish Group, said the government often required sweeping, singular contracts for projects that private businesses would complete for in pieces.

“It’s an iterative style,” Mr. Johnson said. “That’s how Google does it. That’s how eBay does it.” Mr. Johnson said the government’s successes tended to come from small, focused projects, which might attract more competitive bids. The success rate for small-scale government contracting projects in the past decade, according to his firm’s analysis, is nearly 55 percent.
--Michael Shear and Annie Lowrey, NYT, on's 4.6% chance