Article Posted by Bill Maile, Director of Communications

The challenge most often described when discussing major IT project is not the level of technological complexity but the culture of change and business processes surrounding the implementation of a new system. IT execs agree that the key reason most projects fail is a lack of thorough planning, support and execution by project executives. If it’s a major project, it will likely impact many people across several departments and jurisdictions, compounding the political and personality factors. Power struggles are inevitable.

The Office of Systems Integration (OSI), part of the California Health and Human Services Agency, was set up in 2005 to manage and oversee the implementation of large and complex IT projects. OSI’s project portfolio includes welfare case management systems, the Electronic Benefits Transfer system, the Statewide Fingerprint Image System, and the Unemployment Insurance Modernization project among others. Through its successful delivering of multiple IT projects, OSI has earned a reputation as being a "world class project management office."

This month, OSI released what they are calling a Framework for Multi-Departmental Projects, a strategy for working with their departments that can be utilized to prepare and manage multi-departmental projects successfully. It’s a resource that identifies best practices and has the potential for other agencies and departments to utilize.

"OSI is continually identifying opportunities to implement operational improvements. We’ve taken a proactive approach in developing this guiding document and a plan to identify and collaborate on projects where common functionality exists," says Crystal Cooper, Agency Information Officer and Chief Deputy Director for OSI.

According to the Framework, one critical component is having a senior level, independent program manager who has people skills and can manage stakeholders. It’s also important to leverage project management best practices with management disciplines, like strong governance, common architectures and having departments clearly outline the resources it will dedicate to the project.

OSI’s new Framework fits into a larger approach by the OCIO, the IT Capital Planning process that combines business planning with technology requirements to ensure effective system development efforts. Agency IT Capital Plans, which all state agencies are required to develop on an annual basis, provide the OCIO with a statewide view of the programmatic and policy priorities of state agencies and the opportunities to leverage common technologies across departments. Multi-departmental projects allow the state to reduce the cost and time required to develop IT systems.

Like the IT Capital Planning process, OSI’s Framework is taking project management to the next level, bringing together stakeholders and convincing executives across state government to work together toward the success of IT projects. More about the Framework can be found here.