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The launch date has arrived. After months filled with team meetings, status reports, and planning documents, your team can confidently assert the project was delivered on-time and on-budget. The system is in production and running smoothly. Congratulatory emails flood the inbox of all involved and everyone is pleased. So, why is the project still a failure? Why, because the project didn’t achieve the business goals.

In federal agencies many projects are tied to formal contracts. Many of these contracts have a fixed spending limit and a fixed duration. So achieving cost and schedule targets is a given. What is not a given is whether the project will help the government be more efficient, or provide industry better access to information, or save the taxpayer money. Sure, many projects start with a set of predefined metrics and targets to judge success. But too often those metrics are forgotten, changed mid-stream, or simply not measured.

There is some accountability for large IT projects because they are tracked on the IT Dashboard, the website enabling federal agencies, industry, the general public and other stakeholders to view details of federal information technology projects. But a quick scan of some of these project metrics would reveal a glaring lack of credible performance evaluating criteria. “Develop . . . Operating Training Briefing” is a task and not a measure of performance. “Develop . . . Customer Satisfaction Target Metrics” is a metric to develop a metric!? Even worse, the performance for “small” IT projects, typically projects with annual costs of less than $10M, is not even tracked on the dashboard.

Better accountability for all projects is the simple answer to make all projects “successful”. The answer may be simple – but not easy.