The Bureau lacks a sufficiently mature IT governance process to ensure that its investments are properly controlled and monitored. Implementing a governance framework and system development methodology are challenging tasks that can be aided by having robust implementation plans. Such a plan is instrumental in helping agencies coordinate and guide improvement efforts. In September 2012, n17 we reported that while the Bureau developed the Enterprise Investment Management Plan, which was to be applied to all investments, the plan was still a draft document and had key gaps. Specifically, the plan did not contain guidelines for the membership of investment review boards or the frequency of board meetings, and it omitted cost and schedule performance thresholds for escalating issues to higher-level boards. Accordingly, we made recommendations to address these weaknesses. The Bureau agreed, and in response to our recommendations, in June 2013, program officials provided us with an updated plan, which was finalized on September 28, 2012. However, while the plan now states that investment review boards should meet at least monthly, the plan does not specify thresholds for escalating cost, risk, or impact issues. The Bureau needs to take action in this key area as we previously recommended to ensure that its senior executives have adequate insight into project health to make timely decisions.
Proper requirements management remains a long-standing challenge for the Bureau. The Software Engineering Institute states that a disciplined process for developing and managing requirements can help reduce the risks of developing or acquiring a system. Unfortunately, the Bureau has had difficulties with this in the past, as illustrated by the problems it had in managing requirements during the 2010 census, which were largely responsible for the Bureau's abandonment of its handheld enumeration devices and increased the cost of the census by up to $3 billion. In September 2012, n18 we reported that the IT and 2020 Census directorates had independently drafted new requirements, instead of developing a Bureau-wide requirements management plan, despite our prior recommendation. To address the Bureau's recurring weaknesses in requirements management, we therefore recommended that it establish and implement a consistent requirements development and management process across the Bureau. Bureau officials agreed with the recommendation and in response, in August 2013, program officials stated that they began using a new life-cycle management tool to manage requirements Bureau-wide. While this is a good start, it remains to be seen whether the Bureau will fully implement the new tool and institutionalize the requirements management process. Until the Bureau fully implements our recommendation to establish a consistent requirements development and management process across the Bureau that has clear guidance for developing requirements at the strategic mission, business, and project levels and is integrated with its new system development methodology, it will not have assurance that the IT systems delivered for 2020 will actually meet user needs. IT Workforce Planning
As discussed earlier in this statement, effective workforce planning is essential to ensure organizations have the proper skills, abilities, and capacity for effective management. The Bureau has not yet finalized its IT workforce plans. In 2012, we reported that the Bureau had taken limited steps to develop IT human capital practices, such as inventorying critical competencies among its IT staff. n19 Yet many key steps remained to be implemented. In particular, the Bureau had not developed a Bureau-wide IT workforce plan, identified gaps in mission-critical IT occupations, skills, and competencies, or developed strategies to address gaps. Accordingly, we recommended that the Bureau establish a repeatable process for performing IT skills assessments and gap analyses that can be implemented in a timely manner. The Bureau agreed with the recommendation, and in response, in June 2013, Bureau officials stated that they plan to complete a skills and needs assessment for the Bureau's IT workforce by the end of this month. Officials also reported that they have a workforce planning team that has developed a strategic workforce planning process and implementation plan. While the Bureau has taken certain steps to improve its IT workforce planning processes, going forward it will be important for it to fully establish a repeatable process for performing skills assessments and gap analyses, as we recommended, that can be implemented in a timely manner and better enable managers to address any skills gaps in preparation for the 2020 Census.