Unsatisfactory progress in critical areas of managing large IT projects

(Chapter 2—Large Information Technology Projects—2011 Status Report of the Auditor General)

Ottawa, 9 June 2011—The government has made some improvements in managing large information technology projects, but overall progress is unsatisfactory because of longstanding problems in critical areas, says the Interim Auditor General of Canada, John Wiersema, in a Status Report tabled today in the House of Commons. The report looks at five projects with a total cost of $1.1 billion, four of them previously audited in 2006.

“Continued investment in information technology is needed to deliver services to Canadians,” said Mr. Wiersema. “Developing these systems is complex and expensive. It needs to be managed well.”

The report notes that planning for an IT project requires a business case to explain why the project is needed, what results it is expected to achieve, and how success will be measured. Analyzing the costs, benefits, and risks of the investment is also part of a good business case. Monitoring progress is important to control costs and risks and to ensure that the project benefits are achieved. The audit found that these critical elements were weak in most of the projects that were audited.

The audit also found that for the most part, departments had adequately assessed the skills and experience required to manage projects. The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat has actively reviewed and challenged large IT projects submitted by departments.

“We note improvements in some areas,” said Mr. Wiersema. “However, similar action is needed in planning and monitoring projects, and measuring results—areas that are still weak.”

The Status Report follows up on the government’s progress in implementing commitments made to address issues identified in previous reports. Progress is deemed either satisfactory or unsatisfactory, taking into account the complexity and significance of the issues and the amount of time that has passed since the original audit.

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The chapter “Large Information Technology Projects” is available on the Office of the Auditor General of Canada Web site.

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