National guidelines for IT on their way

Standards Australia is developing new national guidelines for IT governance and project management because current standards are costing the industry billions of dollars a year.

Director of communications, IT and e-commerce standards at Standards Australia, Mark Bezzina said the aim of the new guidelines, which are expected to be released for public comment next year, is to develop an “Australian consensus-based directive that covers the technical, business and contractual elements of information technology projects, management and contracts, including hardware, software, software development and outsourcing.”

Bezzina said the body was also planning to develop new guidelines for information technology general conditions of contract, IT project management, and case studies on IT project under-performance.

Graham Andrews, CIO Asia Pacific for PricewaterhouseCoopers, was indifferent to Standards Australia’s proposals, claiming “governance is only as good as the governors themselves.”

“We have seen plenty of this on corporate boards. My experience of IT governance panels is mixed; (those) with and without policies. Where those involved have an understanding of the subject matter they work, and where they do not, it rapidly becomes a useless bureaucratic layer.”

Concerns about the high expectations of benefits that new IT projects bring to business were voiced at the 2002 World Congress on IT (WCIT) in Adelaide earlier this year. Many business leaders called for action to be taken to address hype in the IT market and a perceived lack of return on investment in IT projects.

In his address to the WCIT, Commonwealth Bank of Australia managing director David Murray delivered a scathing attack against the information technology industry saying it had failed to deliver on promises.

In support of these concerns, the 1999 Standish Group CHAOS survey also found that 84 per cent of IT projects are considered unsuccessful, either over time, over budget or without the functionality expected.

Backing up these claims, the U.S. Department of Defense has reported that only 2 per cent of its software is able to be used as delivered.

It is expected the Australian national IT guidelines being developed by Standards Australia will deal with such issues as: lack of awareness and involvement at the CEO and board level, poor elicitation and documentation of requirements and specifications, lack of user consultation, failure to apply essential project management practices, excessive management expectations, personality clashes between members of the project team, “artificial” deadline setting, and poor contracting decisions and management.