Trustworthy Functioning of Democracy?By Faisal Hoque Print
Poor management, not poor technology, will cause the government to spend an additional $3 billion for the next census.
The Census Bureau is guilty of no more than what other government agencies and major corporations have committed. Of course, when it’s the Census Bureau, congressional redistricting and hundreds of billions of dollars in government funding are at stake – in other words, the efficient and trustworthy functioning of democracy.
What is lacking in any organization where things go astray like this is a management framework to guide decision-making, a set of management capabilities such as the Business Technology Management Framework that provides a holistic view of the organization, its goals, and its many moving parts.
Such a framework goes far beyond just project management, although that is critical. A framework must unite the organization from top to bottom, converging the management of business and technology in such a way that fundamental questions get answered – for example, is an electronic handheld gizmo really necessary in the first place?
The Government Accountability Office has been tracking the looming train wreck at the Census Bureau and recommending changes in management practices. Several years ago I spoke with Lester Diamond, then the GAO’s assistant director for IT management issues, when he was looking into private sector models for technology management.
“A framework, a way of understanding, a way of bringing together information and evaluating it and from that understanding deciding what configuration is most appropriate could evolve,” he told us. “And it makes sense that it be integrative, because these things don’t stand independently. Enterprise architecture and investment management and strategic planning are not independent. And understanding the implications on one when making decisions about another is very important.”
That the census handheld didn’t work at first is not the issue. After all, it took Hollerith several years to perfect his inventions. The issues were requirements creep, workers not prepared for something radically new, and no contingency plans if something went wrong. Just simple, basic management capabilities, which have been identified and deployed successfully are often not enough. It is, regrettably, an old story. And I for one am not surprised.
FAISAL HOQUE is the Chairman and CEO of BTM Corporation (http://www.btmcorporation.com). BTM innovates new business models and enhances financial performance by converging business and technology with its unique products and intellectual property (IP). © Faisal Hoque
For more about technology and government, visit BTM Corporation’s Web site at http://btmgovernment.btmcorporation.com
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