HUD Information Systems:

Immature Software Acquisition Capability Increases Project Risks

GAO-01-962: Published: Sep 14, 2001. Publicly Released: Sep 14, 2001.

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The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) routinely acquires new information systems and enhancements to manage and support its various programs and operations. GAO has designated HUD's major program areas as high risk, in part because the department's information and financial management systems are poorly integrated, ineffective, and generally unreliable. HUD has been trying to improve its systems to better support its missions and management reforms. HUD did not fully satisfy the requirements for any of the "repeatable" key process areas GAO reviewed. Although HUD's software acquisition process has several strengths, GAO found weaknesses in all key software process areas evaluated: requirements development and management, project management, contract tracking and oversight, and software evaluation. As a result, HUD's processes for acquiring software are immature and ad hoc, sometimes chaotic, and not repeatable across projects. HUD acknowledges these weaknesses, is committed to improving its software and system acquisition processes, and will soon begin a process improvement effort.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to this recommendation, the Office of the Chief Information Officer developed an SA-CMM Strategic Improvement Plan dated November 11, 2003. This improvement plan provides goals and timeframes, establishes priorities for initiatives, provides estimated resource requirements, and establishes a process improvement management structure. More recently, as of January 2005, HUD has taken 13 projects into the process improvement program and intends to bring the rest of their projects into process improvement over the next two years. HUD has also initiated periodic project assessments of compliance with SA-CMM level 2 requirements and developed a database that tracks progress of each project in addressing corrective actions.

    Recommendation: To improve HUD's software acquisition capabilities, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should direct the HUD Chief Information Officer (CIO) to develop and implement a comprehensive plan for software acquisition process improvement that is based on the software capability results in this report and specifies measurable goals and time frames, set priorities for initiatives, estimate resource requirements (for trained staff and funding), and defines a process improvement management structure.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: HUD agreed with this recommendation and has developed a SA-CMM policy, dated November 2002. This policy requires that all software acquisition projects at HUD demonstrate capabilities in accordance with SEI SA-CMM Level 2 and develop plans (based on a plan outline provided by the HUD SAPG) for each acquisition activity (such as solicitation and requirements development). The HUD SA-CMM strategic improvement plan, in its FY04 goals section, includes developing an implementation work plan for each new project. The improvement plan also establishes an executive committee, steering committee, and working group to meet on a regular basis and report progress and problems to management as well as measure and track the status of activities performed by software acquisition teams. HUD completed gap analyses of each system, developed a set of corrective actions to address weaknesses, and automated the corrective action plan in a database allowing them to track progress made by projects in correcting weaknesses. Finally, management is advised of progress on a regular basis.

    Recommendation: To address the systematic weaknesses mentioned above, the plan should contain steps to (1) develop a comprehensive policy for the acquisition of software, (2) require plans for specific acquisition activities, (3) measure and track the status of activities performed by the software acquisition teams, and (4) report regularly to management on progress and problems.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to this recommendation, HUD assessed the three key process areas that GAO excluded from the review because HUD did not have recent performance in the three areas. The assessment, which was conducted by a contractor, covered the three key process areas on five projects and all seven key process areas for two additional projects. The assessment was completed on June 27, 2002, and confirmed GAO's assessment that HUD's processes are immature. HUD has also prepared a plan to ensure that all new acquisition projects adopt processes that satisfy SA-CMM Level 2 requirements. HUD is including new language for contracts that requires all bidders to be at SW-CMM or SA-CMM level 2 or certify that they will adopt processes and practices that satisfy SW-CMM level 2 requirements. Finally, HUD has developed a plan to initiate process improvement activities for ongoing software acquisition projects.

    Recommendation: To ensure that all aspects of software acquisition are addressed, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should direct the CIO to (1) assess HUD's maturity in the three key process areas that could not be evaluated by GAO and include any needed improvement actions in the comprehensive plan for software acquisition process improvement, (2) ensure that all new software acquisition projects in HUD adopt processes that satisfy at least Software Acquisition Capability Maturity Model level 2 requirements, and (3) ensure that process improvement activities are initiated for all ongoing software acquisition projects.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development


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