Information Technology: Agencies and OMB Should Strengthen Processes for Identifying and Overseeing High Risk Projects

GAO-06-647 Published: Jun 15, 2006. Publicly Released: Jul 17, 2006.
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Highlights

In August 2005, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a memorandum directing agencies to identify high risk information technology (IT) projects and provide quarterly reports on those with performance shortfalls--projects that did not meet criteria established by OMB. GAO was asked to (1) provide a summary identifying by agency the number of high risk projects, their proposed budget for fiscal year 2007, agency reasons for the high risk designation, and reported performance shortfalls; (2) determine how high risk projects were identified and updated and what processes and procedures have been established to effectively oversee them; and (3) determine the relationship between the high risk list and OMB's Management Watch List--those projects that OMB determines need improvements associated with key aspects of their budget justifications.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of Management and Budget In order for OMB to take advantage of the potential benefits of using the quarterly performance reports as a tool for identifying and overseeing high risk projects on a governmentwide basis, the Director of OMB should direct federal agency Chief Information Officers to ensure that they are consistently applying the criteria defined by OMB.
Closed - Implemented
In response to our recommendation, in 2008, OMB clarified and expanded the high-risk project criteria. Specifically, OMB provided agencies with eight criteria for identifying high-risk projects, which was an expansion from its original list of four criteria. Additionally, in June 2009, OMB publicly deployed a Web site, known as the IT Dashboard, which displays information on federal investments' cost, schedule, and performance information. As part of the IT Dashboard, agency CIOs are required to evaluate and rate their investments' performance using eleven key criteria specified by OMB. As a result of OMB's efforts, it has provided a consistent means by which agency CIOs can evaluate performance and identify high-risk investments.
Office of Management and Budget In order for OMB to take advantage of the potential benefits of using the quarterly performance reports as a tool for identifying and overseeing high risk projects on a governmentwide basis, the Director of OMB should establish a structured, consistent process to update the initial list of high risk projects on a regular basis, including identifying new projects and removing previous ones to ensure the list is current and complete.
Closed - Implemented
In response to our recommendation, in June 2009, OMB publicly deployed a Web site, known as the IT Dashboard. It displays information on federal agencies' cost, schedule, and performance information for the approximately 800 major federal IT investments at 28 federal agencies. OMB requires agencies to update investments' cost and schedule ratings on a monthly basis, and to add and remove investments on an annual basis. This guidance establishes a consistent process for agencies to update the status of their investments, including high-risk investments, as well as ensure that the list is current and complete. As a result, OMB and Federal agencies have gained additional insight into the performance of investments across the Federal Government.
Office of Management and Budget In order for OMB to take advantage of the potential benefits of using the quarterly performance reports as a tool for identifying and overseeing high risk projects on a governmentwide basis, the Director of OMB should develop a single aggregate list of high risk projects and their deficiencies and use that list to report to Congress progress made in correcting high risk problems, actions under way, and further actions that may be needed.
Closed - Implemented
In June 2009, OMB deployed the IT Dashboard, a Web site that displays cost, schedule and performance information for major federal IT investments. OMB uses the Dashboard as central repository for tracking the performance of all major IT investments, and identifying investments that are high-risk (i.e. needing significant attention). Additionally, certain high-risk investments are selected by OMB officials for a TechStat review session, which is a meeting for Federal IT leaders to review the management of the investment, examine program performance data, and explore opportunities for improvement. OMB has reported to Congress on its TechStat initiative in its fiscal year 2009 Report to Congress on the Implementation of the E-Government Act of 2002.

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