Tag Archives: Oregon

‘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.”

Comment

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.

US state government and defence IT projects face uncertain future

By David Bicknell

Local newspapers in the US are offering some insight into the cloudy future of two significant IT projects.

In Salem, Oregon, a planned $92 million upgrade of the state’s Department of Revenue computer system is reportedly on hold because the state can’t afford $13 million in start-up costs.

The Register-Guard website says local officials chose to put the  project on hold rather than ask legislators to make a choice between paying for the computer system and paying for public safety and human services.

The computer system is said to be responsible for processing $7 billion a year and 94 percent of Oregon’s general fund revenue, but officials are apparently concerned about its future effectiveness.

The agency’s ability to collect taxes rests on a “myriad of disparate, aging software applications and databases,” according to a 96-page business analysis the Department of Revenue produced in 2010.

Meanwhile,  in Beavercreek, Ohio, a US Air Force computer modernisation project which has already cost $1 billion, is said to be at risk of Washington defence cuts.

US Air Force officials have acknowledged that the Expeditionary Combat Support System project, on which at least $986.5 million has been spent, won’t be completed in 2016 as had been hoped. Work began in 2007, but the local Springfield News-Sun newspaper reports that the completion date has been repeatedly postponed because of delays.