Farmers Home Administration's ADP Development Project--Current Status and Unresolved Problems

CED-80-67: Published: Feb 19, 1980. Publicly Released: Feb 19, 1980.

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The Farmers Home Administration's (FmHA) computer-based systems project, the Unified Management Information System (UMIS), was reviewed. In 1974, FmHA began developing UMIS to provide better management information at all levels within the agency in an effort to improve service to rural Americans seeking financial assistance.

FmHA has not properly designed, documented, or managed the project. As a result: (1) the projected implementation date of the system will be at least 5 years later than planned; (2) the estimated total cost to develop UMIS as designed may reach $42 million; (3) total development costs for any alternative to UMIS may range from $27.5 million to $42 million; (4) the operational costs of UMIS as designed will be exorbitant; and (5) the system may not meet the basic needs for which it is being developed. GAO has determined that UMIS is not viable as currently designed and managed. Furthermore, since FmHA has not adequately studied and defined its information needs, there is no assurance that if UMIS or an alternative becomes operational it will provide needed information or be cost-effective. This lack of information requirements has also made it difficult to identify all possible alternatives. Most UMIS delays, cost increases, and capability shortfalls resulted because FmHA did not: (1) assign a project manager who would be dedicated to the project on a full-time basis; (2) prepare a comprehensive system development plan identifying milestones and critical decision points; and (3) use standard automatic data processing (ADP) project control measures such as cost accounting and budget preparation procedures. Because any alternative selected to replace UMIS will be a major software development project similar in scope to UMIS, FmHA must address the project management issues of effectively planning, managing, and controlling a complex ADP development project.

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