Category Archives: US Government

A welcome boost for agile in government

By Tony Collins

David Wilks, Digital Performance Manager at Government Digital Service, which is part of the Cabinet Office, says there has been “incredible” interest in clarified guidance that makes it easier for departments to obtain funding for agile projects.

The guidance applies to major projects.

Wilks says on the GDS blog that the guidance will “cut bureaucracy and encourage innovation, making digital transformation easier across government”.

It means that, in most cases, government organisations can spend up to £750,000 on the first two phases of a government agile project, discovery and alpha, on the basis of Cabinet Office spending controls – without needing an HM Treasury business case.

The guidance means:

  • more use of “light-touch” Programme Business Cases
  • using agile discovery to replace the Strategic Outline Case in most cases
  • avoiding the need for a separate Full Business Case stage where procurement uses a pre-competed arrangement such as the Digital Services Framework

“For agile and finance teams in government departments, this guidance clarification has produced incredible interest,” says Wilks.

Comment

It seems fashionable to criticise the use of agile in government, perhaps because agile requires a mindset and culture that may be alien in parts of the civil service. But done well agile could help to modernise and reform central government administration.  It’s not a cure for all the problems of bloated government IT and it has risks, among them:

-  Zeno’s paradox where a project is perpetually on the point of delivering successfully but never actually does, as with the BBC’s Digital Media Initiative.

-  A so-called agile project that combines waterfall and agile approaches. It’s either waterfall or agile. It’s difficult to see how a project can be both. Those projects where there has been a hybrid agile-waterfall approach have not been successful: Universal Credit, the BBC’s DMI and an Oracle IT-related project disaster in Oregon.

That said, investigators of the “Cover Oregon” failure seem now to advocate a purer form of agile as one solution. A highly critical official report into the failure has some positive comments on agile:

“Since September 2013, CO [Cover Oregon] has been utilizing a home grown development process which is based upon agile methodologies. There are seven functional areas within the process, referred to as tables, with each table having a dedicated table lead (a mini project manager) and a dedicated business analyst. This process appears to be well orchestrated.

“Each morning there are daily “scrum” meetings for the different functional areas. While not rigidly adhering to the formal agile scrum format, these meetings serve a valuable purpose in providing a regular opportunity for various parties from a functional area to provide the latest updates on the progress across the outstanding major defects/issues …”

 

With some reservations the Cabinet Office’s initiative to cut bureaucracy and make it easier for departments to adopt agile is welcome.

 

Francis Maude –“unacceptable” civil service practices

By Tony Collins

Francis Maude laments civil service inaction over a cabinet committee mandate for centralising procurement. It “corrodes trust in the system”.

Gus O’Donnell, the former head of the civil service,  confronted Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister in charge of civil service reform, on BBC R4’s In Defence of Bureaucracy last week.

The irreconcilable differences between O’Donnell and Maude were obvious and may be a sign of how difficult it will be for the minister to make lasting and deep cuts in IT-based spending, simplify overly complex processes, and reduce duplication.

O’Donnell spoke of the virtues of the civil service that have served the country for more than a century, particularly its impartiality.  But Maude said the “value of impartiality can sometimes turn into indifference”.

O’Donnell said: “We need to be proud and passionate about the public sector ethos…” and confronted Maude for saying things about the civil service “that are not always totally positive”.

francis-maude.jpgIndeed Maude said,

“Most of the civil servants I deal with are terrific, work hard and do really good work.  It is not universal.”

O’Donnell then confronted Maude for saying that ministers in this and previous government have too often found that decisions they have made don’t get implemented. Is that the fault of ministers or civil servants, asked O’Donnell.

“I’d be astonished if it’s ministers,” said Maude who added,

“ I had a meeting the other day around this table …  where a decision was made by a cabinet committee, more than a year ago, on the centralising of procurement. It had happened to a very minimal extent.

“If there is a problem with it, that can be flagged up and tell us. Just to go away and not do it is unacceptable … it is protection of the system. This is the speaking truth unto power thing. What is unacceptable is not to challenge a ministerial position but then not to implement it. That is what corrodes trust in the system.”

About £230bn a year – nearly a third of everything government spends – is on public sector procurement.  In 2010, Nigel Smith, then CEO of the Office of Government Commerce, spoke to the “Smartgov” conference about the need for major reform in the way government buys things.

He spoke of the need for re-useable software, open source if possible, and said that suppliers regularly use fragmentation within government to maximise profits. “This has got to change,” says Smith.

He said there were 44,000 buying organisations in the public sector which buy “roughly the same things, or similar things, in basic commodity categories” such as IT and office supplies.

Massive duplication

He spoke of “massive duplication”, high tendering costs on suppliers, and a loss of value due to a lack of true aggregation. He said suppliers had little forward look of opportunities to tender and offer innovative solutions for required outcomes.

“Contract management with supplier relationship management is inconsistent, with too little attention paid to continuous improvement and benefits capture within contract.

“The opportunity to improve outcomes and efficiency gains should not be constrained by contract terms and innovations should not stop at the point of contract signature.

“If we miss this opportunity [to reform] we need shooting.”

So it is clear procurement [and much else] needs reforming. But in the R4 broadcast last week (which unfortunately is no longer available) O’Donnell portrays a civil service that is almost as good as it gets.

He speaks of its permanence in contrast to transient ministers. His broadcast attacks the US system of government in which public service leaders change every time there is a new government.  The suggestion is that the US system is like a ship that veers crazily from side to side, as one set of idealogues take the captain’s wheel from another. O’Donnell implies that in the UK civil service stability lasts for decades, even centuries.

The virtues he most admires in the UK civil service are what he calls the 4 “Ps” – Pace, Passion, Professionalism and Pride.  His broadcast speaks of the UK civil service as a responsible, effective, continual and reliable form of administration.  

Comment

O’Donnell’s most striking criticism of Maude’s intended reforms of central government goes to the heart of what Maude is trying to do: change what is happening in departments.

When, in the broadcast, Maude suggested that civil servants were not challenging ministerial decisions and were not implementing them either, O’Donnell replied that Maude was “overstating the issue”. But O’Donnell went much further and added a comment that implied Maude should leave departments alone.

O’Donnell said

“These sorts of problems mainly arise when ministers at the centre of government want to impose their will on secretaries of state who want to be left alone to run their departments as they see fit.”

Is O’Donnell giving permanent secretaries and departmental ministers his support if they continue to snub Cabinet Office reforms?

It is hardly surprising Maude is a bundle of frustrations. Central government administration cannot be reformed if departments have the autonomy to refuse to implement decisions of a cabinet committee.

It is ironic that cabinet committee decisions are binding on the entire Cabinet – but not, it seems, on departments.

Perhaps the gap between political and civil service leaders at the centre, and senior civil servants in departments, is as irreconcilable as ever. Today’s UK civil service is more than ever “Yes Minister” without the jokes.  Should this be the dysfunctional basis for coalition reforms of central government?

Perhaps this explains why Maude is trying to implement open standards, make government procurement friendly to SMEs and encourage the use of G-Cloud while the Department for Work and Pensions and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are  agreeing new mega-contracts,  with the same handful of monolithic suppliers.

Sir Jeremy Heywood, the current Cabinet Secretary,  is perhaps a little more Maude-friendly than O’Donnell when he says in the R4 broadcast,

“There are lots of things we need to do better. Too many projects that we undertake are delayed, are over budget and don’t deliver on all the benefits that were promised. We are not as digital as the most effective private sector organisations are. We have been slow to embrace the digital revolution.”

Fine words. But if a cabinet committee’s decision on centralising procurement has little effect, how is Sir Jeremy going to convert his words into action? Or Francis Maude’s?

All change again for management of state IT projects in Florida

It is all change again when it comes to the management of IT and IT projects within one US state government.

According to this report, the state of Florida is preparing to do without a standalone agency that deals with technology, with the eventual demise of the Agency for Enterprise Information Technology (AEIT), a 16-person unit that helped set standards for technology purchasing and information security under the supervision of Florida’s governor and cabinet.

The Florida Legislature has passeda bill,  HB 5011, which would have replaced AEIT with an Office of State Technology (though quite how that would differ is unclear).  The Florida Governor, Rick Scott, vetoed the bill, and although the agency still exists, it will have no funding when the new fiscal year starts in July.

Many of its employees, including former state Chief Information Officer David Taylor, have already begun moving to other agencies, the report says.

As usual, the state of IT projects has come under fire with one politician, Denise Grimsley, arguing that studying some of the state’s technology initiatives – including an attempt to switch most of state government to a single e-mail system – led her to conclude that AEIT “in its current state was ill-suited to provide the statewide vision and oversight needed for certain enterprise information technology projects.”

Plus ca change.

Security breach costs US CIO his job

By David Bicknell

Beware of data security – a breach can cost you your job.

According to Government Technology, a breach of health data within the Utah Department of Health in the US has cost the state’s CIO, Steve Fletcher, his position.

Fletcher’s departure was part of Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s actions following the breach, which was discovered on April 2 and is believed to have compromised 280,000 Social Security numbers other personal information of an estimated 500,000 people, including names, addresses, birth dates and some details contained in patient health records.

In response to the data loss, Utah has now started a comprehensive security audit of the state’s technology systems and created a new position of “health data security ombudsman.”

The data breach was found to have occurred on March 30, and is believed to have been caused by a weak password that allowed hackers to break through the department’s security and steal the personal information of as many as 780,000 people.

Government Technology reported that the breach was regarded as ‘preventable’, and that the incident shows that greater funding is needed to protect government’s IT systems.

At the same time, it shows the problems CIOs - in both the public and private sectors - face in trying to put adequate protection in place to prevent security breaches before they occur.

The problem is that if you ask for security funding before anything has happened, the request risks being rejected by executives. And if you wait until a breach occurs, as in the latest Utah case, it’s a bit like shutting the gate after the horse has bolted.

Dept of Technology Services CIO resigns over UDOH data breach

US federal CIO points to greater consolidation of government email systems

By David Bicknell

It is interesting to see how the US Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel is pushing US departments to rationalise their email systems.

The Labour Department is the latest to be earmarked for email consolidation with seven contracts for separate email systems set to be shrunk down to one, the Washington Business Journal reported.

The federal government needs to eliminate duplication to save dollars but also to free up time and resources in agencies’ acquisition offices so more effort can be put into transformative information technology projects, VanRoekel told the recent Congressional Forum on Technology.

“There’s an effort under way to start to look at how many [information technology] systems people are running in these agencies,” he said. “How many email systems? At the Department of Labor there are seven. There’s an opportunity there to save money.”

VanRoekel pointed to rationalisation success at other departments. Three years ago, he suggested, the Agriculture Department was managing 21 email contracts and 1,000 mobile contracts to implement primarily a BlackBerry service.

The department reduced those numbers to one and three respectively. The new email system cost one-third as much as the systems that had been in place, and the mobile computing blanket purchasing agreements saved Agriculture 18 percent from its budget

Consolidation efforts also need to be strategic to ensure fair competition among contractors, VanRoekel said.

“Should we go extreme on consolidation, and run one email system? The Canadian government has done this; one email, one procurement system,” he said. “Contemplating how we’d manage that at our scale is one factor. But also, if we the government were to pick the winner, we would do a great disservice to business. We need to strike that balance.”

New York’s new CIO to create centre of excellence to prevent failing IT projects

By David Bicknell

New York’s recent problems with IT projects have been well documented.

Its latest solution: appoint a new CIO, with a wide remit that includes innovation and the setting up of a ‘centre of excellence’  to nail down failing projects.

Rahul Merchant joins with a background served at US mortgage and housing specialist Fannie Mae and at financial services company Merrill Lynch.

He will become the first Citywide Chief Information and Innovation Officer and Commissioner of the Department of Information, Technology and Telecommunications reporting to New York’s mayor Michael Bloomberg.

His role will involve overseeing New York’s information technology development and management, with a focus on delivering technology projects on-time and on-budget.

Merchant will succeed Carole Post, who recently announced she will be leaving for a position at New York Law School.

“By bringing the City’s IT infrastructure and development under one office, we can ensure we are using best practices across agencies, leveraging the City’s enormous IT infrastructure to our maximum advantage and holding contractors accountable for delivering results,” said Bloomberg. “Rahul is a seasoned executive who has proven himself time and again as a leader and an innovator in the industry.  He is going to do an outstanding job as New York City’s first Chief Information and Innovation Officer and we are excited to add him to our talented team.”

Merchant will be responsible for New York City’s IT infrastructure, as well as oversight of the implementation of key technology initiatives that enable the City’s various agencies to serve 8.4 million New Yorkers.

What will be worth watching is seeing how he tackles New York’s reputation for troubled IT projects by creating a Centre of Excellence that will  “standardise business processes for the implementation of large technology projects, institute a system of vendor evaluation to hold contractors accountable for meeting project milestones, and update the City’s technology contracts to focus on the delivery of established milestones to meet agency business needs.”

According to Bloomberg, Merchant will work closely with agency commissioners and chief information officers “to ensure that IT projects leverage existing infrastructure and software to the maximum possible extent, and that the City’s overall IT budget meets core agency business needs and the City’s overall technology objectives.”

He will also spearhead the New York’s efforts to remain a leader in technology innovation, by leveraging its  technology assets and partnerships with academic institutions, technology firms, and entrepreneurs.

He won’t be short of people to help. Merchant will lead a 1,200-strong staff responsible for managing the City’s information technology infrastructure as well as serving the information technology needs of 45 mayoral agencies, dozens of other governmental entities, and nearly 300,000 employees.

Here’s how local sites reported Merchant’s appointment:

Crain’s New York Business: Major taps Merrill Lynch vet to tame tech projects

Tech President: New York City just radically changed who manages its IT projects

Government Technology: NYC names Rahul Merchant to CIO and Innovation role

US federal procurer GSA cancels Oracle’s Schedule 70 IT contract

By David Bicknell

Something unexplained appears to be happening in the contractual relationship between US federal procurers and Oracle.

As this story from InformationWeek details, the US federal government has cancelled Oracle’s services contract on the the General Services Administration’s (GSA) IT Schedule 70. The US government spent $388 million on Oracle products and services through Schedule 70 in the 2011 financial year.

The GSA is an agency that helps with procurement services for other government agencies. As part of this effort, it maintains the GSA Schedule,  something akin to a collection of pre-negotiated contracts from which other agencies can use to buy goods and services.

Procurement managers from government agencies can view these agreements and make purchases from the GSA Schedule knowing that all legal obligations have been taken care of by GSA.

IT Schedule 70 is the largest and most widely used acquisition vehicle in the US federal government. Schedule 70 is an indefinite delivery indefinite quantity (IDIQ) multiple award schedule, providing direct access to products and services from over 5,000 certified industry partners.

The GSA detailed its cancellation of the Oracle contract in a tightly worded announcement on its website. There has been no further explanation for the contract cancellation and no comment to date from Oracle.

The contract cancellation has also been reported on other blogs in the US:

GSA cancels Oracle IT contract

Six months after suit between them settles, GSA ends contract with Oracle

Feds nix Oracle blanket contract

FDA: “Much work remains” to modernise its IT systems, says US oversight team

By David Bicknell

Sometimes you have to applaud how seriously the US government takes accountability in its departments over their approach to IT projects.

One of the latest by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) is on the IT management at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In a title, ‘Why the GAO did this study’, it points out that the FDA, an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), relies heavily on IT to carry out its mission of ensuring the safety and effectiveness of regulated consumer products. Specifically, it says, IT systems are critical to the FDA’s product review, adverse event reporting, and compliance activities.

Recognising the limitations in its IT capabilities, the FDA has undertaken several initiatives to modernise its systems, with the GAO now being asked to assess the FDA’s current portfolio of IT systems, including the number of systems in use and under development, and their purpose and costs; assess the status and effectiveness of the FDA’s efforts to modernise the mission-critical systems that support its regulatory programs; and examine the agency’s progress in effectively integrating and sharing data among key systems.

In its report, the GAO argues that while the FDA has taken several important steps toward modernising its IT environment, much remains to be done.

According to the GAO, the FDA reported spending about $400 million for IT investments in the last  financial year (2011). But, it says, the agency currently lacks a comprehensive IT inventory that identifies and provides key information about the systems it uses and is developing.

It points that both Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the GAO’s own guidance calls for federal agencies to maintain such an inventory in order to monitor and manage their IT investments. The inventory should include information on each system, such as costs, functionality or purpose, and status. However, the GAO says, the FDA does not have such a comprehensive list of its systems, although budget documents included information on 44 IT investments for fiscal year 2011. 

Until the agency has a complete and comprehensive inventory, the GAO says, it will lack critical information needed to effectively assess its IT portfolio.

GAO goes on to point out that “much work remains on the FDA’s largest and costliest system modernisation effort, the Mission Accomplishments and Regulatory Compliance Services program.” The program is estimated to cost about $280 million and is intended to enhance existing applications and develop new systems that provide information for inspections, compliance activities, and laboratory operations.

However, the GAO argues, much of the planned functionality has not been delivered and its completion is uncertain. Moreover, the program lacks an integrated master schedule identifying all the work activities that need to be performed and their interdependencies.

The FDA’s CIO stated that the agency is now reevaluating the scope of the initiative. As a result, it is uncertain when or if FDA will meet its goals of replacing key legacy systems and providing modernised functionality to support its mission.

In addition, FDA has not yet fully implemented key IT management capabilities essential for successful modernisation, previously recommended by GAO. These include developing an actionable IT strategic plan, developing an enterprise architecture to guide its modernisation effort, and assessing its IT staffing needs.

One of the problems for the FDA has been changes in its management structure, which has meant that since 2008, the agency has had five different CIOs, hampering its ability to plan and effectively implement a long-range IT strategy.

The GAO recommended that the FDA should develop both a comprehensive inventory of its IT systems and an integrated master schedule for a major modernisation effort, and assess its  information needs to identify opportunities for greater sharing.

GAO Report

Shining a light into the darkest corners of wasteful IT projects

By David Bicknell

US federal chief information officer (CIO) Steven VanRoekel is adopting a novel approach to Government IT: innovate with less.

In a piece written for the The White House’s Office of Management and Budget, VanRoekel says he has learned lessons from the private sector on helping government learn private sector best practices, and in particular, how to buy IT.

“These agency successes are a good start, but we need to do more. We still face an unacceptable amount of duplicative and low-value IT.  That is why (we are)…. launching a new tool for agencies to use to assess the current maturity of their IT portfolio management process and make decisions on eliminating duplication across their organisations.

“This tool – which we’re calling “PortfolioStat” – gives agencies tools to look into the darkest corners of the organisation to find wasteful and duplicative IT investments.”

VanRoekel says the efforts are paying off.

“Over the past three years, the Federal Government has done much in adopting private sector practices to triage broken IT investments, reduce the IT infrastructure footprint, and innovate with less.

“For example, at today’s President’s Management Advisory Board meeting, the Department of the Interior showed that by modernising IT infrastructure and aligning resources to improve customer service, they will realise $100 million in savings from 2016 to 2020, for a cumulative total of $500 million. To date, there have been $11 million in cost avoidance by updating the scope of projects and $2.2 million in redirection of funds due to IT Spending Reviews.”

Over the next year, says VanRoekel, agency Deputy Secretaries or Chief Operating Officers (COO), must lead agency-wide IT portfolio reviews within their respective organisations, working in coordination with Chief Information Officers, Chief Financial Officers, and Chief Acquisition Officers.

The level of executive sponsorship, VanRoekel says, “is a direct reflection of our belief that IT is a strategic asset that can dramatically improve productivity and the way agencies execute their mission. By June 15, agencies will complete a high-level survey of agency IT portfolio status and a bureau level information request for specific types of commodity IT investments that will used to baseline the maturity of agency portfolios.

“Then, using the portfolio data gathered combined with other data available at the bureau and agency level, COOs will establish targets for commodity IT spending reductions and deadlines for meeting those targets; illustrate how investments within the IT portfolio align with the agency’s mission and business functions; establish criteria for identifying wasteful, “low-value,” or duplicative investments; and improve governance and program management utilising best practices and, where possible, benchmarks.

“Though this process is new for Federal IT, leading private sector companies have been leveraging improved IT portfolio management tools for some time. Private sector organisations that waste millions on duplicative and low value IT are destined to disappear. Competitive pressure has forced change and efficiency.

“Though there are differences between public and private sector work, my time in both makes me extremely confident that the best practices from a well-run company can be applied effectively to the Federal Government.”

According to Nextgov.com, which reported VanRoekel’s attendance at the  FOSE  2012 conference on government technology,  US federal IT spending grew about 7 percent every year during the decade prior to 2009.

Since President Obama took office amid the 2008 financial crisis, federal IT spending has leveled off at about $80 billion annually.

“I’m proud to say that in the last three years on that flat or declining budget we’ve actually innovated a lot,” VanRoekel said.

Homeland Security Department CIO Richard Spires imposed a 10 percent cut in operations and maintenance spending across the department in the administration’s fiscal 2013 budget request to free up money for new initiatives.

VanRoekel said initiatives to consolidate federal data centres, shift more of the IT budget to cloud computing and a “maniacal focus on rooting out duplication” were allowing agencies to invest in new technologies.

The US Defence Department’s 2013 IT budget request, for instance, is down more than $1 billion, largely because the department cut costs associated with maintaining data centres.

PortfolioStat is an opportunity for CIOs and chief operating officers to look horizontally across an agency and identify places where services can more easily be shared,VanRoekel said.

According to Nextgov’s report, the U.S. Agriculture Department has moved from more than 20 separate email systems to only one cloud-based system during the past year and recently consolidated more than 700 mobile phone contracts into three blanket purchase agreements.

US Chief Information Officers Council

Nextgov.com

California’s long-running courts’ IT project faces final verdict

By David Bicknell

If there was one place in the world you’d think might be able to get an IT project to improve courts’ systems right, it would be California, the home of Silicon Valley.

Unfortunately not. According to the San Jose Mercury News, there is a risk of the plug being pulled on a proposed system which was intended to link courts to each other and the state’s Department of Justice, and which would replace paper court files with electronic documents, allowing judges ‘with a click of a mouse’ to check everything from criminal histories to child support payments around the state.

But the 10-year project, which has so far cost $560m is running out of money. And now California, which as a state is strapped for cash, and is imposing budget cuts that are closing courthouses, is ready to pull the plug on the project altogether. 

The state’s Judicial Council, which is the court system’s policy arm, will tomorrow weigh up its options and make a decision whether to continue with the Court Case Management System (CCMS) or end the project.

A state audit last year made a catalogue of complaints against the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts for its lack of lack of oversight. It said that the AOC had: 

  • Inadequately planned for the statewide case management project and did not analyse whether the project would be a cost-beneficial solution to the superior courts’ needs.
  • Was unable to provide contemporaneous analysis and documentation supporting key decisions on the project’s scope and direction.
  • Did not structure the development vendor’s contract to adequately control cost and scope—over the course of seven years, the AOC entered into 102 amendments and increased the cost from $33 million to $310 million.
  • Failed to develop accurate cost estimates—in 2004 the cost estimate was $260 million and by 2010 the estimated cost was $1.9 billion.
  • Had not obtained the funding needed for statewide deployment and without full deployment to the 58 superior courts, the value of the project is diminished.
  • Must gain better support from the superior courts for the project—the superior courts of Los Angeles and Sacramento counties asserted that they will not adopt the system unless their concerns are resolved.
  • Did not contract for independent verification and validation (IV&V) of the statewide case management project until 2004 and independent project oversight services until 2007. The level of IV&V oversight was limited in scope and duration.
  • The statewide case management project may be at substantial risk of future quality problems as a result of the AOC’s failure to address certain of the consulting firm’s concerns.

In a telling quote, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the Judicial Council’s chairwoman,  is reported to have said it may be time to reconsider the project, comparing it to having “a Ferrari in the garage, but we can’t afford the gas.”

The San Jose Mercury News reported that state lawmakers are now growing increasingly sceptical of paying for CCMS, with one committee last week voting unanimously to put most of the system upgrade on hold.

“Eight presiding judges, including those from trial courts in San Francisco, San Mateo and Los Angeles, last week urged the council to pull the plug,” the San Jose Mercury News said. 

When it was first approved more than a decade ago, the project was an ambitious one.  Its goal was to create one unified system for all of California’s trial courts. The upgrade had widespread support, including from the state’s then Governor Gray Davis, and California was flush with cash to pay for the project.

But as the project progressed, its cost increased, and it has since became a ‘lightning rod’ for California judges who have been absorbing more than $600 million in budget cuts over the past three years.

Now, the state wants to cut the judiciary’s losses and find less expensive ways to improve court technology, by, for example, allowing local judges to pick their own IT upgrades.

“Anyone will tell you, if you’re stuck in a hole, stop digging,” said Sacramento Superior Court Judge Maryanne Gilliard, a leader in the Alliance of California Judges, a CCMS critic. “We’ve spent 10 years on this project. It needs to be declared dead.”

However, the end of the project is not necessarily a forgone conclusion, proving the old adage that no failing IT project can easily be killed off. Now a separate audit released last week has suggested three more options:

  • Deploy the full CCMS program in one test county, San Luis Obispo, which would cost more than $20 million; or  
  • Install it in 10 counties, including Alameda, Marin and Santa Cruz, and wait for the end of the recession before taking it state-wide; or  
  • End the project now. 

The audit has however pointed out that with or without CCMS, many trial courts need technology upgrades that will cost some amounts of money. And it has projected that, by 2017, CCMS would save the state about $33 million a year by cutting the cost of everything from collecting fines to transferring court files from one county to another.