IPMA News : December 2004
Edited By Mary Ellen Bradley and Dennis Jones
Editors' Note: The IPMA Board did not meet in November.
Semantic Technologies are those that employ formal descriptions of the meaning of the information stored in information systems, or in documents. These technologies have been endorsed by the W3C in the form of the Semantic Web and are available in products from a number of companies, including those making Enterprise Application Integration tools, search and inference tools, knowledge management and much more. We have produced a white paper called "The CIO’s Guide to Semantics" to familiarize you with the depth and breadth of these new approaches to building and integrating systems.
-- by Tom Medina, DSHS IT Policy and Portfolio Management Unit Manager
The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) Information Technology (IT) Portfolio is a key resource for management of the agency’s technology investments and projects. Like other state agencies, DSHS manages its IT investments in accordance with Information Systems Board (ISB) Portfolio and IT Investment policies.
Information regarding department technology is captured on an intranet site that provides a central and up-to-date reference of IT investments along with a view of how they align with the agency’s strategic business plans. This online DSHS IT Portfolio tracks agency IT expenditures, provides a record of IT investments already made, and facilitates strategic and tactical planning of future investments.
Project Risk and Oversight
At the heart of the DSHS Portfolio is the "assessment" which is conducted between project staff and the DSHS IT Policy and Portfolio Management unit. Staff use the assessment tool provided by the Department of Information Systems (DIS) to assess a project’s risk and severity and to determine the project’s oversight level.
Level 3 projects are considered high risk and are subject to ISB approval and oversight. They require a feasibility study along with external Quality Assurance. In addition, DSHS assigns a special Senior Project Manager to consult with every Level 3 project to ensure all policy requirements are met.
Level 2 projects are considered less risky and are subject to DIS approval and oversight. This generally means project status reports and other project documents are provided to DIS. DIS staff also attend key project meetings and the ITPPM manager meets monthly with the DIS senior technology management consultant to review all DSHS Level 2 and 3 projects.
Level 1 projects are low risk and oversight is internal to DSHS. While not required, DSHS sometimes chooses to provide DIS with project documents and invite them to key project meetings.
Currently there are 70 projects listed in the DSHS IT Portfolio. Of these, 32 are proposed and 38 are in progress. Of the 38 projects currently in progress, 4 are Level 3 projects, 7 are Level 2, and 27 are Level 1.
Strategic Plans and IT Projects
As an umbrella agency, DSHS is organized into multiple administrations that focus on specific services to citizens in need. All proposed and current IT projects and investments are listed separately in Portfolio by administration. Summary information for each project in the Portfolio provides a brief description of:
Strategic business plans, which describe the mission and goals of each DSHS organization, are also published in the Portfolio. Centrally located, these plans facilitate the ability of decision makers to evaluate how closely each administration IT project aligns with department and administration business strategies and direction.
The Portfolio also provides a snapshot of DSHS’s IT infrastructure and includes such information as the current and projected DSHS IT budget, the number of DSHS IT FTE’s and salaries, a description of each DSHS application and database, and the DSHS Security and Disaster Recovery plans.
Project Post Implementation Reviews
In addition to assessments and infrastructure documentation, the portfolio model also provides the opportunity to gain and pass on valuable project management best practices to future projects. To achieve this, a Post Implementation Review (PIR) is performed by DSHS after a project has been completed and the results are published in the Portfolio.
The PIR is conducted to analyze and document feedback on events that happened during a project that may be beneficial to other DSHS program areas that might be involved in future projects of a similar type. Ultimately the PIR process helps DSHS promote desirable project outcomes and limits the recurrence of undesirable outcomes. As the library of PIR’s grows in Portfolio, DSHS plans to make PIR information searchable.
Quarterly Reports and Portfolio Updates
ISB policy requires Portfolio to be updated annually. However, to enhance its usefulness as a decision-making tool, DSHS updates its Portfolio information quarterly. Updated information published in Portfolio in a quarterly release includes changes to timelines, cost, scope, and status of existing projects along with any new projects that were not published in the previous quarter.
During the quarterly update not only is existing Portfolio data updated, but more detailed information about that data is collated and then published in a Quarterly Report that is delivered to DSHS executive management. The report provides summary information broken down by administration within DSHS and includes:
The DSHS IT Portfolio helps to provide clarity in the face of multiple projects and systems in the vast DSHS infrastructure. As program areas within DSHS continue to turn to information technology solutions to meet ever growing business needs, the DSHS IT Portfolio will continue to grow and be used as a key resource for the department to make decisions and manage its technology.
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