The IT departments in Swiss Government hit several times the headlines in the past few months . Some of there projects of importance were massive over budget, failed and big question marks came up about processes for request for proposal and contracting. But what is the root cause of all that and will it really help to centralize IT sourcing as mentioned in the Swiss press ( today? 

As I was not involved in these project failures myselfs I just can assume. However, lets reflect the general situation with big projects in none-IT sector and address some potential advices using a more agile approach.


The IT projects were related to Federal Employment Office RAV Image Source: Martin Rütschi Keystone

It seems main issue is that the customer at government was not familiar with such big IT projects. Here a centralized IT sourcing for sure could help, but just in area of IT partner management and request for proposals. In other words I expect root cause in much more areas:

  • CHF 34 till 100 Mio. Projects are too big to manage
  • Such big projects could be specified just roughly or a final detailed specification is already out-of-date
  • These rough specifications will defines scope and budget
  • So big projects lasts for years and create a lot of changes in scope and budget
  • A long through-put-time leeds to changes of key persons

But how to overcome all this potential problems?-May be an agile approach could help here. But therefor a paradigm change will be needed at customer and supplier side.

As a starting point the big project has to be split into waves of several small projects. This reduces scope and so complexity of requesting for proposals. The through-put-time in contracting could be reduced one more time if goal-based contracts were negotiated. This needs mutual granting of trust in rough estimations, billing at a time and material bases, with flexibility in scope. Furthermore customer needs to overtake his responsibility and include all stakeholders during all project into decisions and reviews. If we are aware of that just 20% of all features built are really used by end user, we will set project focus to business outcome. This will make project up to 80% more cost efficient.

Just 20% of all features built are really used
Standish Group, 2013

Now, if you’re new to agile you’d say this is a win-loose situation for supplier/customer?-But then you have to consider, that time/quality and also costs are fixed. Per definition of goals customer knows, what he will get in minimum. This minimum will be a working increment, as customer gets  delivered within short cycles of 1-2 weeks one in review. All this flexibility allows customer to include in every review end user feedback, that could be implemented with no additional costs (Changes for free). Last but not least customer gets freedom and flexibility to change supplier from wave to wave. So it’ll be in supplier’s interest to deliver expected quality and becoming a real partner. Even if that means to deliver faster the right thing and getting money for nothing!

Succeeding in these paradigm changes customer and supplier will create a win-win situation!-So what are we waiting for?