Federal information technology programs operate in an environment of rapid technology evolution in which some system components become obsolete while the program is still in development. This pace of technology change requires agile decision
making and challenges program teams to keep their technical skill base current to inform these decision-making processes. IT systems and business processes are increasingly interconnected within and across agencies, making it hard to achieve consensus on vision, operational concept, and requirements. The federal government's stretched fiscal and human resources further complicate the situation. The net effect is the widespread failure of many programs to deliver on time and on budget. In 2008, the Government Accountability Office, in Publication No. GAO-08-1051T, reported that "OMB [the Office of Management and Budget] and federal agencies have identified approximately 413 IT projects—totaling at least $25.2 billion in expenditures for fiscal year 2008—as being poorly planned, poorly performing, or both."
In this article, I'd like to reflect on three critical challenges facing IT acquisition: governance, requirements management, and program management practices. I will also outline four steps for improvement: focus oversight on best practices, take a portfolio approach to IT program management, attract and retain critical government professionals, and strengthen program management offices.