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addresses the needs of the users. Major commercial software packages, such as those being acquired by the Defense Logistics Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Health and Human Services, and others to improve their financial management operations, are similar to the ones DHS is contemplating and are extremely complex. Therefore, it is critical that DHS understands what its users want the system to do, in order to configure the system to ensure that its expectations are met. Fundamental to this effort is an understanding of the requirements that are needed to achieve the desired functionality.

5. The main takeaway in GAO’s testimony is that the Department needs to follow systematic methods or “disciplined processes.” We continue to hear about failed federal agency projects due in large part to failures by agency managers to follow “disciplined processes.”

  • Why are the Department managers not following these processes?

  • What actions are being taken to address this?

  • What is your recommendation about how to correct this problem?

History has shown a direct relationship between the effectiveness of the processes used to manage a project and how well that project meets its cost, schedule, and performance objectives—projects with strong processes have a far greater probability of meeting their objectives than projects that have weak processes. These disciplined processes are based on the best practices identified by the Software Engineering Institute (SEI),12 the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE),13 the Project Management Institute, and other experts, which have been proven to reduce the risk in implementing systems. A disciplined software implementation management process can maximize the likelihood of achieving the intended results (performance) within established resources (costs) on schedule. Moreover, it is critical to have the right people in the right place at the right time to efficiently apply disciplined processes.

As we do more work in this area, we continue to find that the quality of these processes is a leading indicator of future successes and failures. These observations are consistent with those of experts reviewing private sector system development efforts. We previously recommended14 that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) develop specific guidance for agencies on disciplined processes for financial systems implementation and provide a standard set of practices to guide the migrations from legacy systems to new systems and application service providers.

12SEI is a federally funded research and development center operated by Carnegie Mellon University and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense. The SEI objective is to provide leadership in software engineering and in the transition of new software engineering technology into practice.

13IEEE is a nonprofit, technical professional association that develops standards for a broad range of global industries, including the information technology and information assurance industries, and is a leading source for defining best practices.

14GAO, Financial Management Systems: Additional Efforts Needed to Address Key Causes of Modernization Failures, GAO-06-184 (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 15, 2006).

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GAO-07-1157R DHS Posthearing Questions

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