VA to offer more public details on paused projects

Monday - 7/20/2009, 4:15pm EDT

Roger Baker

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By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
FederalNewsRadio

The Veterans Affairs Department will take its use of the Office of Management and Budget's IT Dashboard a step further by publishing a one-page summary for every project under each of their 41 major investments.

VA chief information officer Roger Baker tells FederalNewsRadio's In-Depth with Francis Rose Friday that he has committed to federal CIO Vivek Kundra to add this feature to the agency's page on the dashboard Web site.

"For example, for each investment you will see projects that underlie it and you will get one page overview of where it stands on cost, schedule and various components," Baker says.

"We will be heavily stop light oriented. I'm not sure how far down into the project details we will go because some things could be acquisition sensitive or things we should not make public. But I want to make it clear, that every project will have a public display of information."

Baker says the IT Dashboard played a role in its recent decision to temporarily stop 45 technology projects that have gotten off track. VA announced its decision and the projects July 17.

"Each of these projects fall under one of those 41 major investments, but each of those major investments are made up of multiple projects," Baker says.

"With VISTA there may be 5-to-10 ongoing projects in development and maybe one or two of the projects are on the list that has to be halted and revised at this point. There is not a 1-to-1 correlation and we are talking to OMB about that and how it maps."

The 45 projects on hold represent about 25 percent of the agency's total development budget, about $200 million.

Baker says VA invoked the "three bears rule," choosing not too few, not too many, but just the right number of projects to take a look at.

"It had to be big enough to say we are serious and small enough to handle and get them going again in the next few months," he says.

"These are the 45 that needed the most change and where a pause would be beneficial. We've had some significant failures such as Core FLS and replacement scheduling, and we clearly will not allow that to happen again."

Baker says the overall goal is not to stop projects, but make sure they are meeting VA's needs.

"Before we allow a project to start we have to make sure it's got what it needs to succeed," he says. "We also want to make sure the customer, the program staff and the vendors are all in same boat in making sure they hit those milestones."

VA is moving all projects to incremental development where each project must deliver new functionality to the internal customer at least every six months.

Baker says the customer will determine whether the milestone was successfully met.

"If a project misses three consecutive milestones, we will halt the project and replan it," he says. "We may replace some staff, look at whether a new project manager is needed and revisit or recompete contracts on the project. In essence, we will renovate the project to set it on a different path if not being successful."

Baker says by having everyone-internal customer, program staff and vendor-on the same page, should a project miss three milestones, VA will have no choice but to stop it and reevaluate it.

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