‘Penny wise and pound foolish’ to postpone IT project

By David Bicknell

Sometimes you make decisions over the future of IT systems in the public sector with the best intentions – but still you can’t win. Someone, somewhere, will be unhappy.

Yesterday, I mentioned that a $92m overhaul of a Department of Revenue system in Oregon had been postponed to save money. Now, it seems,  the postponement is a bad idea that will hamper legislators’ ability to make well-informed decisions.  

“I think it is penny wise and pound foolish, if I could use an old saw,” said Vicki Berger, co-chair of the committee that oversees state taxing and revenue policy, according to the Statesman Journal. “We have to bite the bullet. We have to get a better system. We have to know better, more viable information on what impacts our revenue stream.”

Richard Devlin, co-chair of the legislature’s Joint Legislative Audits, Information Management and Technology Committee, has reportedly characterised the announcement as a “nine-month delay” rather than a cancellation of the project.

“I don’t see that as an end to the project, because the need is very real. They need to upgrade their systems, and they will continue to work to that end,” said Devlin. “I can understand the counter-argument, that you do have antiquated systems in the Department of Revenue, but I think citizens in Oregon would want when we invest in this fully that we do it right,” he continued. “I would not want to spend $92 million and then have a project that doesn’t really work.”


It’s a sign of the times that you can get such polarised views over the future of an IT project, but it’s perhaps not surprising when the project is going to cost $92m. I think the current climate is likely to see cost/benefits for IT projects become an issue for many organisations, both in the public and private sectors, but especially in the public sector.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that IT projects are at risk, simply that those making decisions on new systems/upgrades are going to need hard evidence of the real change benefits to justify any decision they make to proceed.

2 responses to “‘Penny wise and pound foolish’ to postpone IT project

  1. Jean Roberts (PERSONAL)

    Dare I say, a full business case with an option appraisal and risk analysis, with a transparent specification about which those who know the domain well can comment – lessons hard learnt from UK health systems – might be useful in this case???


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