Agencies score poorly on ICT project maturity

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Agencies score poorly on ICT project maturity
Report card.

Merits of P3M3 methodology questioned.

Several of Australia's largest government agencies have scored poorly in a new report card that assesses the maturity of their ability to manage ICT projects.

A series of Portfolio, Program and Project Management Maturity Model (P3M3) audits were undertaken in response to the Gershon report into Australian Government IT - specifically his recommendation that Federal Agencies improve their ability to commission, manage and realise benefits from IT projects.

From October 2009, agencies governed by the Financial Management and Accountability (FMA) Act with annual ICT expenditure of more than $20M have had their P3M3 maturity levels assessed.

P3M3 as a model looks beyond an organisation’s performance in respect of any individual measure to consider whether an organisation has been able to build and sustain an effective capability to deliver projects and programs.

Australia's major agencies scored between 0 and 3 out of 5, according to the first benchmarking results released.

Tax, Immigration, Customs and Human Services and Medicare (prior to the latter pair's amalgamation) scored best, with overall ratings of between 2 and 3 (out of 5).

Scores for Foreign Affairs and Trade and Bureau of Meteorology suggested they had a way to go in their maturity levels, with scores of between 0 and 1.

Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) rated 0 for both Portfolio and Program Management because its executive committees did “not recognise a portfolio of change initiatives comprising programs and projects”. DFAT managed large initiatives as projects rather than program, its P3M3 Assessment report stated.

DFAT fared better with its Project management rating of 2 - a score more in line with other agencies.

“The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) is working to improve its P3 capability,” a BoM spokesperson told iTnews.

Self assessment of BoM's performance rated only 1 out of 5 for Projects, Programs and Portfolio ratings.

This year highlighted improvements for BoM in a number of areas (Management Control, Benefits Management, Organisational Governance and Resource Management). An independent assessment is planned for next year (2012), she said.

Not all agencies were as forthcoming in providing their reports to iTnews. The Department of Veterans Affairs, which recently outsourced many IT infrastructure management to Centrelink, insisted requests for its report be processed under Freedom of Information, delaying its release for up to 30 days.

Why are agencies rating themselves on P3M3?

Widespread adoption  of  P3M3  follows  one  of 

Since June 2010 Agencies with ICT spends of between $2 to 20 million subject to the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act agencies) are also implementing the Portfolio, Programme and Project Management Maturity Model (P3M3TM) as a common methodology for assessing their organisational capability to commission, manage and realise benefits from ICT-enabled investments.

What does a rating mean and is it worth improving upon?

The Department of Finance has issued a note on how to interpret P3M3 ratings and warned that the accreditation body for P3M3 in the UK has not verified any Australian organisation above Level 3 in portfolio, program or project management.

Consequently, Finance regards maturity levels of 2 and 3 as “a substantial and in most cases a satisfactory level of capability”.

Little would be achieved for agencies at 2 or 3 seeking further improvements because the cost increases would be excessive, the department said.

Finance's pragmatic approach to the benchmarks suggests interest in P3M3 as a means of improving agency ICT capability may also have peaked.

Should P3M3 be mandated?

John Suffolk, former CIO of the UK Government questioned the benefits of a uniform P3M3 ratings at a Government Technology Summit held last week.

“I find you can take any model, [such as] P3M3, but if it wasn’t appropriate for the group, it never took off. I find it easier to ask what problem we are trying to solve first of all. What options do we have to solve that problem? Which option would you like to select and implement, accepting you might all want to opt for a different option given your business model, your organisation priorities and your cultures?” he said.

“We are all different. It doesn’t really matter, if we deliver the goods,” he said.

Suffolk preferred this line of thinking to use of specific methodology such as P3M3.

The P3M3 ratings of Agencies out of maximum of 5 that did disclose their reports were as follows:

Agency

Project

Program

Portfolio

DFAT

2

0

0

BoM

1

1

1

FACSHIA

1

1

2

A-G

2

1

2

Defence

2

1

2

Finance

2

2

1

Centrelink

2

1

2

Medicare

2

2

2

DHS

2

2

2

Customs

2

2

2

Tax

3

1

2

DIAC

2

2

2

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