Voltaire said: “The better is the enemy of the good.” This has been been commonly paraphrased as “Perfection is the enemy of good enough.” In any case, especially in IT projects, it can be interpreted as “If it ain't broke, don't fix it.”
One of the problems of having elections every four years, or every two, is the temporary nature of government administrations. From national governments to municipal governments big and small, all kinds of decisions are made by looking only at the short-term issues, not the long-term. Government IT projects are especially vulnerable, since long-term planning and development are necessary to ensure the viability of new systems and the proper allocation of resources. Many such projects have failed -- costing taxpayers millions -- because of administration changes and short-sightedness.
Recently I read an excellent book -- A City So Grand by Stephen Puleo -- about the history of Boston in the second half of the 19th century. He details the changes that were made over 50 years that shaped Boston as the metropolis that it is today. At that time it was possible, and imperative, to focus on long-term planning to create a better city for the current citizens and for future generations. The 35-year engineering and construction of the Back Bay and the first American subway are examples of the collaboration and long-term planning accomplished by the city’s administrations through that period.
Whether we are talking about installing a citywide WiFi system for the public or developing a new online government administration system, it is essential for IT projects to be planned for the long term and be sustained by future administrations.
Cities and small towns alike are struggling with their budgets to keep public services functioning; they can’t afford the overspending caused by frequent changes to IT infrastructure. It is necessary to optimize resources and make purchase and service decisions based on long-term, cost-effective solutions. Also it is necessary to establish tight control mechanisms to ensure that projects and equipment are allocated adequately, without being disrupted by politics.
It is very important to keep the teams in place. Changing IT managers because of administration renewal will only create additional hardship on software engineers, support personnel, programmers, and the entire administration. Policies should be clear, stable, and functional. As Bruce F. Webster wrote in "The Real Software Crisis," in the January 1996 issue of BYTE magazine: "Success in software development depends most upon the quality of the people involved... [It] shows individual and team productivity to be the leading predictor in estimating software costs..."
Management should also try to allocate the right resources before the project starts -- or at least early in the development process. This will save on budgeting efforts and help set schedules. When the budget and schedule are correctly in place, meeting the town’s requirements is possible. This relieves pressure on the team and gives them a better chance at success.
Also it is important to focus on functionality and not on ambitious costly projects. Until the economy turns around and we can see stable growth, towns can’t afford overspending on IT projects.