How to prevent money-wasting Government IT failures
Over the last decade, legacy modernization has become a hot topic for government IT organizations. In this era of digital disruptions citizens expect the same level of service and user experience from their government agencies as they get from commercial organizations. Therefore, more and more government agencies are starting a modernization journey. Unfortunately, quite a few of these IT projects fail, they run way over time and budget and often do not deliver according to expectations. Resulting in unfinished/cancelled projects and budget overruns of billions of public money.
Some examples are:
State of Pennsylvania unemployment compensation system
Pennsylvania cancelled the modernization of its 40-year-old unemployment compensation system in August 2013 after the IT project had fallen 42 months behind schedule and gone $60 million over its original $106.9 million budget.
California Department of Motor Vehicles IT modernization
The planned $208 million, 6-year California Department of Motor Vehicles IT modernization project to replace its antiquated 40-year old legacy system was cancelled in February 2013 after 7 years and $134 million was spent.
According to the, publicly available reports of these IT projects the main reasons for the failure are poor project planning, chronic mismanagement, lack of communication and insufficient testing.
Proven key success factors
In our 40 years of existence we have discovered the 5 key success factors for legacy modernization which resulted in a 100% success rate of the more than 70 projects that we have completed in both governmental as well as commercial organizations.
1. Senior management support
Legacy modernization projects are complex. They often concern business critical systems and always run in parallel with day to day business. Senior management support is crucial in assigning resources and guarding timelines and priorities. Especially when it interferes with other IT projects.
“Our senior management made the migration project a #1 priority. This meant that when there was a resource conflict of any kind, the migration project had priority at all times. Meaning other projects had to wait.”
2. Project preparation and planning
Complex projects require meticulous project preparation and planning. In depth insight and knowledge in the applications, data, processes and people involved is essential in setting and guarding the scope of the project. There will always be challenges during the project, but the better the preparation the fewer the unpleasant surprises.
“A job well done, on time, within budget and with real quality.”
“Asysco is a company with skilled professionals that provide excellent service and take full project ownership. They deliver to their promises and do not shy
away from any challenges that arise.”
In all of our projects, communication has proven to be a critical success factor. Making sure all teams involved are always on the same page, that everyone exactly knows the status of the project, what is expected from them, what they can expect and where to turn with their questions and concerns results in better cooperation and smoother projects.
“”Over-communicating” every step in the project so everyone throughout the organization knew exactly what was coming, what was working and what we were working on. That made all the difference in the world.”
“Cooperation with all team members was on a high level, which resulted in a successful completion of the project. Without proper planning and great communication, it would not have been possible to complete such a complex migration within the deadline”.
4. True partnership
Another critical success factor is the cooperation between the external service provider(s) and the government IT department. In a complex legacy modernization project, you are bound to run into problems, or rather challenges. That’s when a partnership is truly tested. A solid partnership brings along a ‘one team, one goal’ attitude, which turns challenges into advantages with minimal compromises.
“Whenever a challenge arose both teams worked as one to rapidly come up with a solution, no matter what the problem was. Even if it was an issue beyond Asysco’s field of expertise, they demonstrated the ability to research and learn in order to overcome the issues.”
“It was a very hard project and Asysco came through in every way, as far as being right there with us, supporting us every step of the way. It was way above and beyond what we had expected”.
5. Test, test and test
In order to deliver the same or better quality of service after the migration, testing is key. Thorough testing of every step in the delivery process helps increase user acceptance and solves performance issues before negatively affecting the business.
“In order to perform all testing in such a short timeframe, tools were developed to compare the source system to the migrated system and detect differences.”
“For final testing a lot of branches and end-users were involved to test performance and stability of the migrated environment. The biggest compliment was that on Monday morning after the go-live weekend users came into the office and didn’t even notice that anything had changed, it was business as usual”.
6. One step at a time
Last but not least; we are an advocate of a phased approach. Incremental modernization, instead of an all at once approach whereby everything changes at the same time: the total IT infrastructure, the development and management organization, end users and external parties. All these moving parts are hard to control and that’s where failure kicks in. Start with the IT infrastructure as a first step and make sure that it is fit for purpose. Then tackle the application side by making it modular and renewing modules selectively and incrementally. This way, the project is easier to manage and the success rate is pretty much guaranteed.
“Sometimes you have to force people into new stuff because it is just time, but when trying to do a complete shift of thirty years of ingrained behavior and try to do it overnight you are going to suffer immensely. When it is a system that they have been using for years, the idea of migrating as is and not try to migrate and modernize at the same time, to us is what saved this project and made it feasible.”