District of Columbia:

Status of Efforts to Develop a New Financial Management System

AIMD-97-101R: Published: Jul 9, 1997. Publicly Released: Jul 9, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the District of Columbia's efforts to acquire a new financial management system.

GAO noted that: (1) acquiring a major new information system is an inherently risky undertaking; (2) valuable lessons have been learned by successful public and private sector organizations that should guide the District's efforts to design and put in place a new financial management system; (3) acquiring a new information system requires following a methodology that starts with a clear definition of the organization's mission an strategic goals and ends with a system that meets specific information needs; (4) a structured "building block" approach is fundamental to systems acquisition; (5) it is especially important to complete three building blocks early in the project: a concept of operations, a requirements definition, and an analysis of alternatives to meet the defined requirements; (6) the District has not yet completed a concept of operations, requirements definition, or alternatives analysis, though it has taken some initial steps in these areas; (7) the District is aware of the need to do more detailed work in these three areas and plans to hire a contractor to assist in this effort; (8) in March 1997, the District, in consultation with officials from the Office of Management and Budget, developed a project management schedule for assessing its financial management operations; (9) this plan was broken into five broad areas: project strategy, requirements definition, solicitation of system support, solicitation of the system, and implementation; (10) developing a concept of operations, defining system requirements, and performing an alternatives analysis will be the key elements in determining the ultimate success of this effort; (11) the current plan does not have a scheduled completion date for the concept of operations and requirements definition phases; (12) despite this uncertainty, the District has established a target date of August 1997 for the acquisition of a new system; (13) GAO believes that there is a high risk that the District will be driven by its ambitious acquisition schedule and will not allow itself time to develop the kind of quality analysis that it must have to manage this important project; (14) given the complexity of the project and the District's track record in acquiring system, it is critical that the District approach this effort diligently and with deliberation; and (15) the quality of these initial elements of the acquisition needs to e high and the Congress needs to be satisfied that the District has laid a solid foundation for this acquisition before going on to the selection of a specific system.

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