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Posted by on Nov 25, 2013

Speak Up! Better Requirements Management at the Heart of Federal IT Project Success

TalkingIn a recent article, Roger Waldron, president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, highlights the ongoing issue of government clearly defining what it needs in IT projects, and ensuring the contractor understands exactly what is needed

Otherwise known as?  A better discussion on requirements – to avoid the Healthcare.gov or SBInets of the future.

Particularly difficult are coming to agreements on the large-scale IT project requirements.  Due to the government acquisition process, more often than not the technology itself moves faster than government implementation, causing add-ins and adjustments to requirements along the way.  So Feds and industry must work better together to ensure success.

But as government cannot completely rely on contractors, Waldron goes on to say:  “Requirements development has been an Achilles’ heel for 20 years now.  The best, most effective way for the government to acquire high-level, best-value contractor performance in support of agency missions is through improved requirements development.”

Top Pitfalls in Requirements

Detailed in The Project Management Answer Book, government and its contractors should together remain aware of all requirements throughout a project lifecycle – from the first step through testing to eventual completion.  Some of the top pitfalls include:

  1. Not putting sufficient effort into securing the proper requirements from the customer – don’t assume you know what the customer wants; ASK
  2. Being too much of a yes-man – be realistic to avoid scope creep
  3. Failing to implement a strong change management system – all new or updated projects are in fact, a change.  Change management needs to be a focus throughout the project
  4. Not scheduling scope verifications with the customer and performing contractor – both in the initial stages, but also throughout the project; you must ensure everyone is on the same page

The New York Times recently highlighted that very issue for Healthcare.gov, noting the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and its prime contractor failed at communicating effectively regarding securing all requirements along the project lifecycle.  This ultimately led to a well-publicized failure at launching (on-time) a successful, completed project that included ALL aspects of the initial requirements CMS provided. 

Don’t get caught in a misunderstanding of the vital requirements your project needs for successful completion.  Whether you are a Fed running the project, or the contractor supporting, requirements management is a key skill set to enable you to finish on time, on budget, and without compromise. 

Leaders in government have only highlighted that Healthcare.gov is merely one example of the need for better overall success in large IT projects as we move to 2014, and mutual misunderstanding of the requirements has been a major pitfall thus far.  It’s bound to get more intense as we continue this open government focus to citizens – don’t let your agency launch another troubled project; focus on requirements management to get the job done.

 

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