There’s government transparency and then there’s government transparency.
New federal CIO Vivek Kundra told the Bits Blog that he wants more transparency into the U.S. government’s big (costing $50 million-plus) tech projects. According to the blog, some 10,000 government systems and 800 large, active projects account for majority of the $76 billion in spending Kundra now oversees.
So, by the end of June, Kundra wants to launch a federal website that will offer government officials and the public “a window into all of the active government technology projects,” notes the blog. Each project will be tracked and displayed—what’s the purpose, schedule and budget? The name and photo of the federal official with responsibility for the project will be displayed, as well as the names of the contractors working on the project, which Kundra says has not been made public before, according to the blog.
As we’ve reported, Kundra hasn’t shied away from confronting security versus openness issues in government systems, and he’s bullish on using Web 2.0 technologies—including Google Apps.
Kundra also says he’s jazzed about the fact that the dashboard will track and show indicators that an IT project is headed for trouble. Kundra offers an example of a project where this dashboard would have alerted everyone to serious trouble: The head-scratching project that aimed to build a handheld computer for U.S. Census examiners from scratch. (Hello, ever heard of a BlackBerry?) The project wasted $600 million, according to Kundra.
The handheld project had 400 “change order” modifications to the specifications sent to the government contractor. “By change order No. 10, you could tell there was something wrong,” Kundra told the Bits blog. “It is a leading indicator that they didn’t have their requirements figured out very well upfront. Therefore, the statistical likelihood of a failure is very high.”
With the new website, this problem would be obvious to anyone. There are other ways to see problems, too.
Right now, Kundra says that key performance indicators (KPIs) on IT project data will be updated monthly, though he wants to eventually move to real-time data flows.
This is not a new concept for the private sector—GE was doing it back in 2000.
But easy-to-understand dashboards and simple, yet powerful analytics are a great first step for monitoring government IT projects. In fact, keeping it simple is critical. Just ask the those enterprises and business users who are struggling to use their BI and analytic systems effectively today.
UPDATE: The Federal IT Spending site has launched.
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