In a clear illustration that some conventional wisdoms about good project planning and clear communication of ICT projects has not yet been fully embraced by federal government agencies, a new guide recommends that government ICT personnel use less technical jargon, frame ICT strategies in a business context and form clear policies regarding data management within government projects.
The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) has released Planning and Approving Projects – an Executive Perspective to provide advice for government senior executives in the implementation of the projects aimed at program delivery and internal business operations.
In his introduction to the guide, Auditor-General Ian McPhee said that “as these projects often involve an Information Communications and Technology component, the guide includes information and examples of issues that arise when ICT is a substantive part of a project.”
A recurring recommendation throughout the guide is for ICT executives to draft their strategic plans in “plain English”, using technical jargon only when necessary.
The guide also suggests the ICT architecture document contain a section suited to non-ICT executives as well as providing the business perspective on ICT strategies, including case studies and examples of how elements of the ICT strategy contribute to the agency’s business strategies and goals.
The guide recommends that government executives develop corporate policies to ensure that data requirements are identified and any restrictions on data use are specified.
It suggests that responsibilities for entity-level oversight of the collection, management and maintenance of data are allocated. In addition it suggests that project planning involve the data owners and include consideration of the potential usage, updating, protection, and archiving of data.
CIOs are called upon to give regular briefings on the progress of the strategy and its practical implications to senior executive forums.
The importance of project proposal alignment with ICT strategies was also highlighted, citing the government’s initiatives to enhance program delivery and the use of ICT, including the:
- Government Architecture;
- National Government Information Sharing Strategy;
- National e-Authentication Framework; and
- Policies on the use of off the shelf software.
Assurance processes are also cited by the guide:
- ICT Investment Principles;
- ICT Two Pass Review process;
- Gateway Review process; and
- Requirements for implementation plans administered by the Cabinet Implementation Unit.
Executive skills are another focal point, with the guide recommending agencies “identify or develop, a pool of executives with aptitude for the oversight of projects,” particularly those involving complex ICT technical detail.
Executives are called upon to exercise “sound judgement regarding the technical issues that are likely to be important” and to adopt a “firm resolve to understand them – which can involve requiring specialists to clarify the business implications of technical issues.”