Why Government IT Procurement is Broken

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

When an organization has a major project to undertake, especially one involving IT transformation, it’s common to procure the services of an outside firm. Whether it’s infrastructure renewal or enterprise applications, the likelihood is that the skills and expertise required go beyond the in-house IT capability of an organization and partnering with a specialist firm is the best approach.

These procurements happen every day in both the private and public sectors and are not inherently problematic, but it does seem as though large-scale government technology projects are often hugely challenged. Why is that? What is it about these initiatives that causes more difficulties than other types of projects, and why is it that major government IT projects seem to experience more problems than similar initiatives in the private sector?

Fundamentals of government procurement
While every jurisdiction and every level of government has variations, the rules around procurement in the public sector tend to be fairly rigid. This is done with the best of intentions—to try and ensure wastage in procurement is minimized, and to eliminate the potential for unethical or fraudulent practices.

One of the most common requirements is that procurement rules generally dictate any request for proposal (RFP) issued by a government body is very specific about what is being …

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