Project Management

Restart to Finish: Resetting A Failed IT Overhaul

Novid Parsi

The reboot needed a reboot. That's what the U.S. state of Wisconsin concluded after its first attempt to overhaul the government's antiquated and fractured IT system failed. With costs rising and financial benefits fading, the state had pulled the plug three years into the initial project in 2008.

But the need for a modern, centralized IT system remained. The state had few programmers who knew how to maintain platforms built in the 1960s and 1970s—ancient history in the IT world. Plus, the archaic systems couldn't perform even basic analytics. They struggled to track how much the state spent on basic goods, such as pens and toilet paper. And there was limited data to help the government make spending decisions, such as whether it should buy state vehicles or reimburse state employees for using their own cars.

So in 2014, Wisconsin came back with a better plan—and a new project team. The US$138.7 million State Transforming Agency Resources (STAR) project would consolidate roughly 140 IT systems used by 58 agencies across the state into a single enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

“We had a need for greater transparency of data and better access to data for improved decision making,” says Dawn McCauley, project director and executive director, STAR program office, department of administration, State of Wisconsin, Madison, …

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"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity. "

- Albert Einstein