Major IT Projects: Continue Expanding Oversight and Strengthen Accountability


The new effort to monitor and control system development, “stage gate,” is a significant step in the right direction. However, the following weaknesses should be addressed:

  • DAS has not fully staffed or defined stage gate processes
  • Stage gate efforts may not sufficiently detect or prevent significant system development problems state agencies have experienced
  • Some state agencies lack expertise to manage large IT projects
  • Consequences of failure to meet stage gate requirements are unclear.

Executive Summary

Information technology has become increasingly vital to business and government over the last several decades. In Oregon, state agencies use computer systems to carry out mission critical tasks.

Over the years, state agencies have struggled to keep up with technology and to implement computer systems they need to do their jobs efficiently or to comply with federal requirements. Currently, several state agencies have computer system projects planned or currently underway that will likely each cost over $20 million. The expected value of projects currently underway or planned totals approximately $1 billion.

In Oregon state government, responsibility for governing, managing and funding major information technology (IT) projects is divided between individual state agencies, various divisions within the Department of Administrative Services (DAS), and the legislature. The purpose of this audit was to evaluate efforts the state is currently using to control and implement large scale IT system development projects.

The state is currently taking steps to improve its processes for implementing new computer systems. However, much work remains to ensure investments in computer systems are not wasted and state agencies are able to obtain computer systems to better meet their business needs.

The Department of Administrative Services’ effort to implement processes to monitor and control system development, the “stage gate” process, is a significant step in the right direction. However, the following weaknesses should be addressed:

  • DAS has not fully staffed or defined stage gate processes
  • Stage gate efforts may not sufficiently detect or prevent significant system development problems state agencies have experienced
  • Some state agencies lack expertise to manage large IT projects
  • Consequences of failure to meet stage gate requirements are unclear.

If these areas are not sufficiently addressed, the state may continue to experience project failures that will waste state funds. In addition, some state agencies may not appropriately replace their outdated computer applications in a timely manner, thus losing the benefits from technology that could be available to them.

Recommendations

We recommend that Department of Administrative Services management:

  • Ensure that appropriate and sufficient staff is assigned to develop, review and enforce stage gate requirements.
  • Fully develop and implement stage gate processes to ensure they are effective and repeatable.
  • Provide guidance and direction to agencies that lack appropriate resources to plan and manage major development projects.
  • Develop and establish consequences for failing to meet stage gate requirements and how they will be enforced.

Agency Response

The Department of Administrative services generally agreed with the recommendations of the audit. It partially agreed with the recommendation to provide guidance and direction to agencies that lack expertise, and instead favors agencies accepting responsibility.

Read the audit