QAO Report on Delivering Successful Technology Projects

The Queensland Audit Office recently released its report on Delivering Successful Technology Projects.

The report identifies five factors that contribute to successful information technology projects.  These factors are important for agencies to bear in mind when procuring ICT products and services.

Contract terms and management can underpin these factors as follows:

Senior leaders actively lead and challenge

QAO identified that “[s]uccessful technology projects are normally led by senior leadership teams who understand the projects and ensure they are well run.  They have or bring the skills and competencies to provide independent challenge”.

This factor can be reflected in drafting the contract between the parties, for example, including clear and detailed terms governing the:

  • identification and implementation of an appropriate project methodology;
  • establishment of an appropriate assurance framework for the project;
  • development and continued maintenance of a project plan;
  • frequent provision of progress reports;
  • periodic conduct of management committee meetings or similar, with appropriately senior representatives of both parties in attendance; and
  • regular conduct of performance reviews.

Those contract management measures will assist the leaders in performing their role.

Projects are aligned to business outcomes

In drafting contracts, particularly when specifying the requirements and deliverables, it is important that “projects are aligned closely to business outcomes [as] they are more likely to deliver benefits and systems that are fit for purpose”.

It is critical that contracts are developed with input from the business and technical teams of both parties.  All key stakeholders, including relevant users, should also be identified and consulted. If necessary, agencies should engage subject matter experts to provide assistance.

Where the parties have adopted an agile methodology or are following an outcomes-based approach, then care will need to be taken when drafting the contract to ensure that the customer’s requirements and deliverables can be continuously updated over time.

Agencies should also consider specifying a minimum acceptable product to ensure that both the customer and the supplier have an appropriate understanding of the customer’s requirements from the start of the project.

There are resources available concerning ICT strategic planning which may be of assistance to agencies.

Internal and external teams work towards the same goals

Agencies should “ensure internal and external teams are working towards the same outcomes and goals”.

QAO recommends that when engaging suppliers, agencies ensure that the contracts:

  • “include incentives to deliver the right outcomes”; and
  • “including a clear description of the solution and confirm the time and effort needed for it to be ready for use”.

The current pandemic will provide an additional challenge to agencies seeking to foster a collaborative working relationship with continuous interaction between its personnel and the supplier’s personnel.  It’s therefore important for the contract to include clear and detailed terms:

  • specifying the roles and responsibilities of the key personnel of both the customer and the supplier; and
  • outlining the communication protocols and contract management, performance and governance controls to be followed by both parties, including an escalation procedure which enables performance issues to be escalated to appropriately senior representatives for resolution.

If a traditional, waterfall methodology has been adopted, then additional measures like staged implementation, with payments tied to the successful completion of stages, and liquidated damages or retention of monies could be utilised to ensure that the deliverables and timeframe for provision of same are clearly articulated.

The team has the skills and capacity to meet the challenge

Agencies should ensure that IT projects involve personnel with capabilities in “advanced technology, change management, project management and contract management” and that such personnel have the necessary time to manage their project responsibilities.

This factor reiterates the importance of ensuring the ongoing involvement of representatives from both business and technical teams, including any subject matter experts, and conducting appropriate and effective contract management to quickly identify and seek to rectify any risks or performance issues.

Learnings are identified and acted on

It is important for agencies to “identify and act on learnings from their project experience and from the experiences of others”.

The Digital Projects Dashboard is one way agencies could seek to identify similar projects and obtain feedback from other agencies who have previously undertaken similar projects about their lessons learnt.

In July, the Queensland Government placed a six month hold on all new, non-essential ICT projects.  This hold presents agencies with an opportunity to consider any necessary changes required to their procurement and contract management procedures to implement the five factors for successful IT projects.

If you have any questions about procuring ICT products and services, or require assistance in drafting and negotiating ICT contracts, Crown Law can help.

Published: 17 November 2020

Author: Adam Hall