State computers behind schedule under budgetgreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
November 11, 1999
State computers behind schedule, under budget
By Cy Ryan
SUN CAPITAL BUREAU
CARSON CITY -- Nearly half of the major computer projects being developed by the state are behind schedule but most are within budget, a governor's committee was told Wednesday.
Marlene Lockard, director of the state Department of Information Technology, said because of the jumbled structure, there's no way to tell just how much is being spent on the operations of the state's computer system which in many cases doesn't share information.
And what's worst, she said that when these projects are completed "We don't know if they accomplished the goal."
Lockard outlined some of the major problems and the suggested solutions to the Governor's Steering Committee to Conduct a Fundamental Review of State Government. There is more than $197 million in technology projects being developed with 92 percent of them within budget but only 54 percent on schedule.
The most notorious problems have been with Genesis of the state Department of Motor Vehicles and Public Safety and NOMADS with the state Welfare Division. When Genesis came on line in September, there were long lines and errors in car registration and titles. NOMADS, which started as a $22 million project, is now over $100 million and is not fully operational after nine years.
But there have been other computer projects in the past with cost overruns or delays.
A major problem in the past, Lockard said has been "lack of project management on the state side." Private companies are responsible for 92 percent of the development of the state system.
To remedy this problem, Lockard has created in her agency a project management center which will oversee the development of computer systems "from the cradle to the grave." She said 40 individuals have been trained to make sure the state gets what it paid for from these private companies.
Another major deficiency in the past has been "poor contract writing." Under normal procedures, a state agency contracts with a private firm to develop a computer system. "Poor negotiations five years ago comes to fruition now," she said. She has also created a contract administration unit in her department to cure that problem.
Computer systems in state government have grown tremendously in recent years. Usage is up 145 percent since 1995. The "hits" on the state's web page has increased from 1.4 million in 1996 to 38.9 million so far this year. "The Internet changes everything," she said.
State Budget Director Perry Comeaux told the committee the choice comes down to "either adding technology or people. And people are more expensive." He added, "And we can't develop systems that we throw away tomorrow."
The known technology costs in state government are 7 percent of the $3.2 billion general fund budget of state government for the present two-year cycle, he said. But there are still many unknown costs.
The information technology department was created in 1993 with the goal of moving all computer related programs into the agency. But that hasn't happened. Lockard said there was still a "Hatfield and McCoy" fight among agencies. "It's very difficult to erase turf battles," she said.
For instance, some major agencies are outside the information technology department. They include the Department of Motor Vehicles and Public Safety, Transportation, Department of Employment Training and Rehabilitation, Employers Insurance of Nevada, the Controller's office, gaming and the University and Community College System of Nevada.
Lockard said she was not advocating that such agencies as the university be brought under her control. But she said there could be further efficiencies when purchases are made.
She said there were no uniform state standards to follow so that decisions can be made during development whether to stop a project at a certain point or to proceed with it.
-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), November 12, 1999
Seems like they're 97% done with their "critical mission systems" Y2K project with a month and a half to go even though 54% are notoriously late. The biggest software project in state history.
They have some real wizards there. Yes, sir. Alot of Y2K Pros you might say.
-- PJC (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 12, 1999.
Haven't they noticed that there is a DEADLINE?
-- Mad Monk (email@example.com), November 12, 1999.
Every now and then I'd give this kind of "good report" (under budget) to my former boss in the shipyard. "Everything fine - look we're under budget...)
He'd point out that one of two things was happening: either the budget was very wrong (grossly over-estimated) - or - the project wasn't using enough people and time to get the real work done.
IF the job has been budgetted correctly - and almost every other y2k-job I'm aware of has EXCEEDED it initial budget, and has taken much longer than expected at the beginning......you've got to use the whole budget to get the whole job done.
In other words - my boss was pointing out that to actually finish all the different jiobs that have to be acomplished, you have to spend all the money needed to actually do those jobs....money not spent is work NOT done in most government programs.
-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Marietta, GA) (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 13, 1999.