Paul Ramsey, the smartest guy writing about government IT projects in the Lotuslandian Bloggodome, has completed one heckuva an analysis of why we just keep spending more and more while we get less and less (and less).
Always thorough and always fair, Paul lays out a number of contributing factors to this longterm travesty.
Here is one of them:
...A manager who successfully delivers a superb $4M IT project gets a celebratory dinner at the pub; a manager who brings even a terrible $140M IT project to “completion” can write her ticket in IT consulting.
The only downside of huge IT projects is that they fail to provide value to end-users a majority of the time, and of course they soak the taxpayers (or shareholders in the case of private sector IT failures, which happen all the time) for far more money than they should...
Now, it would be bad enough if this waste was happening on the inside, because at least then folks working for us might actually learn from the mistakes made.
Unfortunately, this is not the case because of, well...
Outsourcing that has hollowed out public service IT groups from the inside, sometimes on purpose at the hands of the BC Liberal government.
A concrete example of this is what happened to a successful publicly-generated IT project by the Saanich Public School system, a story that was tirelessly chased down awhile back by Lindsay Kines of the VTC:
Minister Peter Fassbender appears to have been working behind the
scenes to discredit a computer system developed by the Saanich school
district to track student grades, attendance and other records,
Despite stating publicly that districts were free
to adopt a system of their choice, Fassbender sent a letter to
directors of the B.C. School Trustees’ Association in February, advising
them to steer clear of Saanich’s openStudent software.
letter, Fassbender accuses Saanich of trying to “undermine” the
ministry’s own student information system, MyEducation B.C., by enticing
districts to select openStudent. He then portrays openStudent as costly
“We believe that we have selected the best
product to support the transformation of education in this province and I
am very concerned there is misinformation being actively communicated
through a variety of channels,” he states in the letter, which was
obtained by the Times Colonist under B.C.’s freedom of information
...Saanich began working on
openStudent in 2011 with the goal of using local expertise to create a
made-in-B.C. student information system. By using freely available
open-source tools, officials believed they could develop the system for
less than $5 million, with yearly maintenance pegged at less than $1
The B.C. government, meanwhile, signed a 12-year deal
with Fujitsu last fall to deliver MyEducation B.C. at a cost of up to
$9.4 million a year.
Don't know about you all, but this kind of stuff just drives me crazy given the missed opportunities to build local expertise, increase efficiency, and keep our dollars in British Columbia.
How to fix the problem?
For that we go back to Paul Ramsey's piece:
...Government can build up a new IT workforce, and start building smaller projects, faster, and stop boiling the ocean, but they have to want to do it first. That’ll take some leadership, at the political level as well as in the civil service. IT revitalization is not a partisan thing, but neither is it an easy thing, or a sexy thing, so it’ll take a politician with some guts to make it a priority...
Go read Paul's entire post - you won't be sorry.