Tag Archives: Michael Bloomberg

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

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New York’s CTO to leave as row deepens over city’s handling of IT projects

By David Bicknell

New York, New York (So Good They Named It Twice) – as the song goes -though not so good at delivering successful IT projects, it would seem.

According to The New York Times, the city’s chief technology official Carol Post has resigned after clashing with a deputy mayor over the management of several costly, ambitious IT projects.

According to the newspaper, city government spokespeople said Ms. Post, who is the commissioner of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, should not be blamed for the mismanagement of the $2.3 billion 911 project, whose problems predated her arrival in the job. She is reported to be leaving to take up a new position at the New York Law School. 

Post’s departure  was announced a day before New York’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg said the city would challenge a judge’s order to release a report by consultants McKinsey on an overbudget, much-delayed modernisation of the city’s 911 emergency calls and dispatching system.

According to The New York Times story, concerns have been expressed about the cost of an upgrade to CityNet, the city’s internal data network; there are continuing problems and shortcomings with CitiServ, a data centre that was supposed to consolidate dozens of city agency servers; and a shortage of users for NYCWin, a secure municipal wireless network.

The wireless network cost $500 million to build and a further $40 million a year to operate, and is underused and arguably outdated.

CityNet has experienced interruptions in service, despite a system of redundant fiber optic rings intended to enable it to withstand a breakdown. The $95 million CitiServ project is reported to have confounded agency officials, with the technology department, DoITT, struggling to migrate old systems into the new data centre.

“The technology department is officially referred to by its acronym, DoITT, but is sometimes derided as “Don’t Do It” by city workers who seek to avoid working with the department,” The New York Times said.

Of Post’s departure, Bloomberg said, “Over the past ten years, we have fundamentally transformed the operations of New York City agencies and elevated New Yorkers’ expectations of how efficient, user-friendly and transparent their government should be, and a large part of that is because of the tirelessness and talent of Carole Post. From her work at the Department of Buildings to the Mayor’s Office of Operations to DoITT, Carole has brought agencies together in common cause, finding efficiencies, defining legal strategies and creating collaborations that use taxpayers’ dollars more effectively. There’s nobody better to help a great institution like New York Law School climb to new heights, and though I’m very disappointed to see her go, I wish her well in tackling this new challenge.”

NY’s CTO Resigns, As Some Question Bloomberg’s Handling of City’s Tech Projects

New York’s emergency call IT project: just seven years behind schedule and $1bn overbudget

New York’s emergency call IT project: just 7 years behind schedule and $1bn overbudget

By David Bicknell

Everything is always bigger in America: the breakfasts, the buildings – and the IT project overruns. 

According to Government Technology, the call-takers behind New York City’s emergency 911 systems are now using the same technology and are sharing data.

The only problem is that, according to an audit from the City Comptroller John Liu, the expansive  – perhaps that should read  ‘expensive’ – upgrade is $1 billion over budget and seven years behind schedule.

Originally started in 2004, the Emergency Communications Transformation Program (ECTP) is now estimated to cost $2.3 billion, with full completion now expected in 2015.

The project initiated by  the New York City’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) set out to establish two public safety call centres in order to improve the resiliency and redundancy of 911 response, which formerly was decentralised within individual city agencies. The New York City Fire and Police departments are now operating in one of the two new call centres while construction work continues on the other building.

According to the audit report, New York employed Gartner as quality assutance consultants when the project began eight years ago, and the consultancy helped implement a series of modifications to the project’s scope and management when problems arose. DoITT contracted with Hewlett-Packard (HP) in 2005 to provide services as a system integrator1 for public safety answering centres (PSAC1) and as project manager over other contractors providing services and equipment for PSAC1.

Gartner subsequently made a series of telling comments on project governance, complaining of a lack of timely decision making; a lack of executive sponsorship participation; and no governance/communications centre administration plan.

Liu blamed the cost overruns on inadequate project management within the city’s administration.

“Taxpayers are just tired of hearing about out-of-control projects involving expensive outside consultants,” Liu said. “This is unfortunately yet another example of massive waste and delay due to City management that was at best lackadaisical, and at worst, inept.  New cost constraints put in place by my office will help curb overruns, though they cannot turn back the clock or put already wasted dollars back in taxpayers’ pockets.”

In his report Liu says:

“We found DoITT’s overall project management of the ECTP lacking – due to its initial underestimation of time and technical constraints involved in implementing the multi-agency mission-critical ECTP – which therefore did not allow for project completion on a timely basis.”

It went on: “The original project governance, roles and responsibilities and project controls  were found to be deficient by ECTP’s quality assurance consultant in 2006 covering the 2005-2006 initial time period of system integration work on the ECTP.

“Specifically, the QA consultant noted questionable judgement, poor decisions and deficiencies in the ECTP governance structure.”

It added that: “The effort… to implement a shared Computer Aided Despatch (CAD) system for Police, Fire and the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Division was a major technical misstep. Due to technical obstacles, ECTP departs from one of its original goals of having a shared CAD. The New York Police Department (NYPD), the Fire Department and EMS will need to independently address their respective CAD systems requirements outside of the ECTP.”

The audit also points out a need for ongoing independent, external quality assurance which has been lacking since Gartner’s contract ended in March 2011.

Audit Recommendations

To address the audit issues, Liu’s office recommended:

  • DoITT, in conjunction with ECTP executive sponsors, should have its current governance strategy expanded, formulated into a plan, reviewed and formally approved by all stakeholders, and conveyed to all pertinent ECTP team members. The expanded areas should include operational coverage for  PSAC1 upon full completion and occupancy, and line of authority for operations within PSAC1 should be clearly defined and conveyed to stakeholders.
  • DoITT and the OCEC should increase its efforts to fill open positions with appropriately qualified personnel to ensure that the ECTP has sufficient resources required for the ongoing monitoring and management of the ECTP
  • DoITT should improve upon its current strategy to provide Quality Assurance coverage by retaining, on a temporary basis, independent quality assurance experts to monitor the balance of HP’s contractual performance for the duration of its contract.  In addition, DoITT should consider a Quality Assurance arrangement to monitor Grumman’s performance as primary contractor at PSAC2

In a letter responding to the findings, DoITT Commissioner Carole Post said that the 911 upgrade has significantly improved call capacity and that call-takers have moved successfully into the first new call centre.

In January, New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg celebrated the opening of the first public safety answering centre. The centre is able to handle 50,000 calls per hour, 40 times more than the average volume and nine times more than was received on Sept. 11, 2011.

“The changes we have made have eluded many administrations and the project has been a challenge, but we have never shied away from the tough decisions or taking on the difficult projects that will make New Yorkers safer and the city work better, and we never will,” Bloomberg said.

More background

New York Daily News report on the project’s history

City Comptroller John Liu’s Audit Report