Audit Scotland lays out five principles for IT project success

Written by Sooraj Shah on 24 May 2017 in News

The Audit Scotland report pulls together lessons learned from previous reports on IT project failures

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Audit Scotland has produced a report detailing five key principles that public bodies should use to deliver digital projects.

In the past five years, the Scottish public sector has spent about £4bn on ICT, with over £856m spent on procuring ICT in 2015/16 alone, it said.

To ensure that these projects and others on the horizon succeed, the watchdog wanted to pull together findings from its recent reports on ICT project failures, and to supplement these with case studies and examples to highlight its messages.


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The organisation said it was building on a report published by the National Audit Office (NAO) a decade ago which looked at the common causes of failure of public sector ICT projects.

It said that while the digital world had moved on significantly since then, many of the same principles that the NAO had set out remain intact.

The five main principles are:

  • Comprehensive planning - setting out what to achieve and how you will do it
  • Active governance – providing appropriate control and oversight
  • Putting users at the heart of the project
  • Clear leadership that sets the tone and culture and provides accountability
  • Individual projects set in a central framework of strategic oversight and assurance.

Each of the principles is broken down further, with specific recommendations including: be wary of optimism bias, consider procurement options early, use an appropriate project management methodology, maintain stability and develop succession planning and recognise the role of culture and tone at the top.

Morag Campsie, an audit manager at Audit Scotland said that none of these principles should be considered in isolation.

“All [of the recommendations] interact to help create the right environment for a successful project, and underpinning everything is having the right skills and experience on the project at the right time,” she said.

She added: “Of course, we know finding the right skills can be difficult, particularly in the public sector but past projects show that this is an essential ingredient of any successful ICT project.”

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