Last summer I heard that the Vermont legislature wanted to form a special committee of non-government business leaders to review the concerns legislative leaders face when considering the funding and execution of large information technology projects. The legislative leaders needed a better understanding of how to vet funding requests and manage the various costs associated with large projects.
I decided to throw my hat in the ring as I shared many of the same concerns and thought I might assist. After all…some of this is my money and I am one of the many citizens that benefit from the successes. I was assigned to the committee by the Senate and joined Mike Schirling who was assigned by the House as well as Tim Kenny who was assigned by the Governor. We had a series of meetings throughout the fall to take testimony from citizens, IT professionals and government leaders that culminated in a report published in January. We concluded that the best path forward include the following steps:
- Recommended improvement to the management structures such as adding a Cabinet level Chief Information Officer and a Chief Data Officer. Assigning a specific legislative committee to provide oversight of IT projects and changing the length of executive leadership cycle in light of IT project timeframes.
- Develop a multi-year strategy to assess and adopt a continuous improvement processes, frameworks for IT project success and easily understandable communications about projects. Improve project team staffing with subject matter experts and professionally trained project managers. Improve communications of the goals, benefits and the return on investment (ROI) of IT projects.
- Engage citizens at the center of technology decisions and dig deeper into their perspectives on what works and what needs improvement. Make data drive the approaches to meeting the State’s challenges.
- Plan big, but start small. Break large projects into smaller ones by using an agile, iterative approach to reduce risks and improve success. Use rapid prototyping and iterative, agile software development methodologies.
- Accelerate the use of cloud-based hosting, software as a service, and outsourcing.
- Use more contemporary funding mechanisms that are matched to the system life. Establish a targeted rate of spending and don’t “chase” Federal or other funding streams.
I found the committee work to be interesting and hope our report has a sustained impact on the state’s posture with ever-changing technology. So far, our recommendations have been well received and there are a few indications that positive changes are occurring. Only time will tell how this work will be viewed in the years ahead but our group remains hopeful that meaningful improvements will lead to a strengthened, up-to date IT structure.