Meagher: CIOs need to go back to basics

Wednesday - 8/25/2010, 10:31am EDT

Ed Meagher, Director of Strategy for Health Affairs at SRA International

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

The Office of Management and Budget has released a list of 26 IT projects that are late or over-budget. Most are both and they will all get special attention.

The secret to getting the projects under control, said Ed Meagher, former CIO at Veterans Affairs and Interior, is no secret at all.

"It really isn't brain surgery," said Meagher. "It's just minor surgery but in difficult conditions."

Meagher told Federal News Radio project managers and CIOs need to go back to basics. Get caught up while making sure they're delivering meaningful results. "They're just being told that they're being watched and there's a short leash and OMB is trying to control things with the money - with the power of the purse." So, said Meagher, get back on schedule, get back on budget, "make sure you have locked down deliverables and then start cranking these things out and we're watching and if you don't, we're going to cut your funding."

Meagher said that when things do go wrong, they go wrong for a myriad of the same reasons: "lack of end user involvement, it's lack of end user commitment to a set of specifications, it's lack of committing to doing these things in bite-sized pieces. chewing the elephant a good big bite at a time but not the whole thing. these are really basic stuff that people know how to do. You get caught up in the day to day, spreading the butter too thin, you're trying to do too much with too little and the next thing you know these things start slipping."

Fixing it is "just a matter..of paying attention to what's important and doing it right and having the support all the way up the top of doing it right."

While Meagher may make it sound simple, he's the first to say it isn't.

"Don't get me wrong: this is not a walk in the woods. It takes some real experience to get this done."

There is, however, good to be found on being on the "list" said Meagher. "A good public beating like this will give you all sorts of power." In short, it gives CIOs the ability to say "no" and have it stick.

"In the end, it's more helpful than not."

Ed Meagher is now Director of Strategy for Health Affairs at SRA International.