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OMB’s Review of Financial Systems Projects – Preliminary Results Are Out

Back in June, then OMB Director Peter Orszag announced an immediate review of twenty large Financial Systems IT projects to determine their project performance and cost effectiveness. We now have a glimpse into the result of these reviews. During his opening remarks at the Northern Virginia Technology Council's Titans Breakfast this morning U.S. Chief Performance Officer Jeff Zients gave those in attendance some basic data on the results that may serve to set expectations for future projects of similar size, scope and purpose.

Preliminary Findings of the Financial Systems IT Projects Review

Of the twenty financial systems programs that were reviewed here is what we learned:
  • 10 programs were deemed on track;
  • 5 programs received a reduced scope;
  • 3 programs were accelerated;
  • 2 programs were terminated;
  • $1.6 billion in IT budget was redirected; and
  • Overall delivery time was reduced by half.
GovWin’s Take
While the exact program names that map to the above data points have yet to be released there are a few take-aways that may be inferred from these points:
  • Smoke does not always mean fire.  Half of the programs target by the review received a “passing grade” and only two were canceled. Many will recall that the original review announcement sent veritable shock waves through the inside-the-beltway IT community. Now that the reviews are finished we find that maybe they were not so bad after all.
  • Reviews can result in more resources. While we do not yet have the details, it seems reasonable to conclude that the three programs that were accelerated likely received additional resources.
  • Scrutiny does not mean less spending. Notice that the $1.6 billion was redirected, not canceled or saved. We do not yet have visibility into where this money went and it may not have gone to IT. But it went somewhere which means some other activities got a boost.
  • A “microscope” can be a time-saver. It is unclear whether the 50% delivery time reduction could have been produced without a “stop-work” review, but it seems unlikely. If nothing else, it gave those involved the opportunity to step back, assess the situation and choose a course alteration. 
From all indications OMB is just getting started on their plans to improve overall IT program performance.


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