GAO: IT project management lacking in HUD modernization

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The Department of Housing and Urban Development has charters, requirements and management plans to direct its Federal Housing Administration Transformation Initiative and Next Generation Management System but not one of these documents is complete enough to effectively guide the department's work, finds the Government Accountability Office.

Full descriptions of work, cost and schedule baselines and prioritized requirements are missing, leading to poor project management of information technology transformation at HUD, finds a June 12 GAO report (.pdf). Because these documents are inadequate, it's unlikely HUD can successfully manage or execute the projects, write report authors.

"Of the 14 projects in our review, all nine FHA Transformation and three of the NGMS projects had developed charters that included most of the relevant high-level information," write auditors.

"Ten of the projects included objectives, while six had related success criteria. Lastly, 10 project charters included a summary schedule, and one included a summary budget," they add.

Auditors say the primary reason the IT modernization documents for both projects are deficient is because HUD did not develop them using the project planning and management framework it established in April 2011. This framework guides a project's lifecycle in accordance with best practices, by using sample templates and checklists for developing documentation, as well as management reviews.

For example, of the 14 projects reviewed, six FHA Transformation and 5 NGMS projects had drafted or completed project management plans, which included life-cycle processes, communication techniques and management reviews. Eleven projects did not clearly identify cost and schedule baselines or consistently incorporate subsidiary plans, say report authors.

Furthermore, the department's governance structure wasn't used consistently, meaning documents are not compliant with key project management practices. The governance structure, established in July 2011, sets processes and responsibilities for decision making around investments, stakeholder relationships and other IT operations.

Report authors recommend HUD ensure successful IT modernization by developing charters that define project success and establish accountability, craft deliverable-oriented work breakdown structures, add cost and schedule baselines to project management plans, establish requirements management plans that include traceability from mission needs and establish strategies to guide acquisition management.

The report also recommends the FHA Transformation and NGMS steering committees add needed project management expertise; the chief information officer revise the framework to remedy deficient project planning, requirements management and acquisition planning; and the customer care committee ensure the HUD governance structure operates as intended.

In a written response, HUD agreed with GAO recommendations, but did not agree with the entirety of the recommendation to develop a plan of action. Barbara Elliott, acting CIO at HUD, said that the need for project management expertise did not follow from the premises established in the draft report.

For more:
- download the report, GAO-13-455 (.pdf)

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