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Private Sector “Enterprise Software” Continues to Fail in Government


September 23, 2013

Doug Hadden, VP Products

Last week I asked whether there was any relief from Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) failures in government. ERP failures mentioned was courtesy of the US Air Force the States Texas and  Massachusetts and the Government of Australia. This was added to our continuous expanding ERP Failure in Government blog page. Perhaps this was too quick because I learned about two more over the weekend:

This all comes after a discussion on the Panorama Consulting blog about the problems in large IT projects in the public sector. Rich Farell points suggests that there is a lack of civil servant accountability  is a major contributor to failure. There are no consequences for failure. My view is that the software manufacturer is also responsible because of the gaps between public and private sector features. For example, ERP vendors are quick to promote their software in government even though they are aware of the massive customization that is required. 

3 Legged Stool

Here's an expansion of my 2nd comment. This is a 3 legged stool problem: the government customer, the systems integrator and the software manufacturer.

The view that government IT project managers tend to not be accountable for poor practices is generally true, in my experience. Poor accountability often leads to poor results. The accountability problem extends to the integrator and the manufacturer.

The manufacturer leg of the stool isn't well understood. We often don’t realize that the stool often begins wobbly because of what comes out of the ERP box – requires often MASSIVE customization. And, the manufacturer is rarely held accountable. In fact, the governance structure is usually exclusively includes government and the integrator. (Very much like the story of the hen who suggests to the pig that they open an all-day breakfast restaurant. The pig wasn't so sure because she'd be involved while he would be committed.)

The integrator is often blamed for failure. There is an incentive for integrators to bill. (It’s like the story of the frog and the scorpion where the scorpion convinces the frog to carry him over the flood because they would both be drowned if he stung. He stings the frog have way across the flood. The frog says: "why did you do that, we're both going to die." to which the scorpion responded: "I can't help it, I'm a scorpion.") Yet, these integrators have methodologies are ISO/MIL-SPEC/CMMi certified. And, government contractors know that they are going to get poor project management from their clients. There is no deniability.

We need to fix all 3 legs of the stool. This is what FreeBalance does. Make of it what you will.

Software Manufacturer Leg
FreeBalance is the manufacturer of Government Resource Planning (GRP) software exclusively. This reduces the customization gap considerably. We commit to any feature changes – so that cuts the orphan code maintenance problem because everything gets rolled in the main line. 

Systems Integration Leg
We are part of the governance structure. We sometimes prime bids as well. We participate in implementation in some role with out partners.

Government Project Management Leg
You might think that there is a lack of capacity and PM talent in the U.S. Our software is implemented in countries like Liberia, Uganda, Timor-Leste, Mongolia and Kosovo. We know what to expect and we are experts in the field, so we build project management capacity in customers.

Here's what we think Vendor Governance should look like in government:

GRP & IT Vendor Governance in Government by FreeBalanceGRP

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Doug Hadden

Doug Hadden

Executive Vice President, Innovation at FreeBalance
Doug is responsible for identifying new global markets, new technologies and trends, and new and enhanced internal processes. Doug leads a cross-functional international team that is responsible for developing product prototypes and innovative go-to-market strategies.

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