Florida TaxWatch, AIF call for reform in state IT project oversight

by | Jan 16, 2024



A joint report published on Tuesday by Florida TaxWatch and the Associated Industries of Florida recommends reforms in Florida’s handling of large IT projects, citing a history of poor execution and unstable oversight.


Florida TaxWatch and Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) released a joint report on Tuesday that urges significant changes in how the state handles its large-scale information technology (IT) projects, targeting poor planning, inefficient contracting, and weak management.

The report specifically points to the state’s repeated changes in its IT oversight agencies, the latest being the Florida Digital Service (FL[DS]), established in 2020. According to the report, this pattern indicates instability and inconsistency in Florida’s approach to IT project management.

“Florida’s history of poorly executed large technology-related projects is well documented and should give taxpayers cause for concern,” reads the report. “Over the past 25 years, the state has created, abolished, and recreated a state agency to oversee large information technology projects at least four times. The current iteration, FL[DS] was created in 2020. Florida TaxWatch and Associated Industries of Florida believe strongly that we cannot afford to let the FL[DS] fail.”

Primary recommendations from Florida TaxWatch and AIF include setting up a joint IT committee in the House and Senate to oversee FL[DS], IT policy, and budget issues. They will serve to streamline IT project management and enhance outcomes.

The report also suggests adopting a new governance model for IT projects to improve accountability and decision-making to guide problem-solving and conflict resolution in managing IT initiatives.

Another major proposal is the standardization of core agency processes to minimize the need for customized software solutions, which the report contends have been costly and time-consuming in the past.

“Statewide standardization of core agency business processes would alleviate some of the software customization and additional workload issues associated with trying to accommodate so many different business processes,” the findings state.

The pair of organizations also recommend amending procurement laws to allow agencies to publish draft specifications for IT projects and gather vendor input before finalizing them, aiming to improve the clarity and structure of contracts. Segmenting large system acquisitions into smaller, more manageable modules is additionally advised to increase the likelihood of sustainable software platforms and reduce bid protests.

The report also calls for incorporating vendors’ past performance into procurement scoring, aiming to improve vendor reliability and accountability.

Secondary proposals include offering signing bonuses, revising job descriptions, and focusing salary structures more on skills than educational qualifications. The report further calls for the establishment of a talent pipeline with the State University System to recruit top IT graduates to fill gaps in state IT departments.

“One readily available source of IT talent is the State University System (SUS),” says the report. “Each year, the SUS graduates more than 7,000 students with degrees in Computer and Information Science. Establishing this talent pipeline between the SUS and FL[DS] will diminish the need for the FL[DS] to “poach” talent from the state agencies it serves.”

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