Thursday, April 03, 2008

Another Computer Project Bites the Dust

Via Government Executive, NextGov reports Commerce Department/Census Bureau is dropping a project to develop handheld computers for the 2010 census (for followups where the mail form was not returned).

'“I am here today because the Field Data Collection Automation project has experienced significant schedule, performance and cost issues,” according to Gutierrez's testimony. “A lack of effective communication with one of our key contractors has significantly contributed to the challenges.”

In his statement, Gutierrez calls the situation with the handhelds “unacceptable.”

He points to a dress rehearsal held in May 2007 as when “development and scoping problems emerged.” The bureau then identified “more than 400 new or clarified technical requirements,” he said, which were delivered to Harris on Jan. 16.

At a March 5 hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Gutierrez said, "significant miscommunication concerning technical requirements between the Census Bureau and Harris" were a main reason for the failings.

In a statement sent to Nextgov, Harris officials said, "The handheld devices are one part of a larger, multifaceted process to move from a 'paper culture' to an 'automation' culture appropriate for the 21st century. We understand that such a significant cultural shift presents organizational challenges to any organization, and Harris is encouraged that automation is moving forward, even if in a more narrowly focused fashion.""

Communication and culture--the recurring nightmare for any change agent.

One wonders if they'd aimed lower at the start whether they mightn't have gotten something that would help.

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