An IT project auditor could help spot problems before you need a task force

Despite some tough competition — as I recall, there were several interesting sessions happening concurrently, one of which was on the ever-intriguing topic of terrorism and the impending havoc terrorists will wreak on us any day now — it was standing room only. The topic was Playing the Blame Game, and a group of four participants — a CTO and three consultant types — took turns providing insider tips culled from many years of experience working on public sector IT projects. (For coverage of the event, please see page 8.) After the session, one audience member asked me to repeat the session next year but to stretch it to two hours. Obviously, public sector IT managers and CIOs are interested in IT project management not only from their own perspective but from that of the IT consultants, vendors and integrators who work on their projects. It appears that while there’s a whole lot of procurement going on in government, there’s not a lot of communication happening on either side. That’s why even the best-planned projects go astray, panelists agreed.And we all know, thanks to those yearly auditor-general reports, what happens when public sector projects go south. Headlines across the nation trumpet the failures in bold type. Those reports, while probably helpful in the same way as pointing out the horses have bolted from the barn, can only go so far in preventing future IT project fiascos. What’s needed, I submit, is a public sector chief IT project auditor, a position that deserves to be created just as many organizations have created chief security officer positions, or, more recently, that of chief risk officer. An IT project auditor would work closely with CIOs and project leads on the government’s largest or most challenging projects, making sure there is adequate communication among all players, that budgets are adhered to and that deadlines are met as realistically as possible — and that participants are held accountable for their failure to meet requirements. It’s a position that would operate independently of any particular department or agency, and whose loyalties would ultimately be to the Canadian taxpayer, not a deputy minister. As IT project auditor for the entire government, that person would also have the kind of scope a departmental CIO wouldn’t normally have. She or he would know of every opportunity to share and re-use technology, and would quickly acquire the on the ground experience that could be applied to future projects.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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