Information Technology:

HUD Needs to Improve Key Project Management Practices for Its Modernization Efforts

GAO-13-455: Published: Jun 12, 2013. Publicly Released: Jun 12, 2013.

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Valerie C. Melvin
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What GAO Found

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has taken initial steps toward applying key project management practices in the areas of project planning, requirements management, and acquisition planning for its Federal Housing Administration Transformation (FHA Transformation) Initiative to address performance gaps in housing insurance programs and its Next Generation Management System (NGMS) to improve management of its affordable housing programs. However, HUD has not yet fully implemented any of these practices in executing and managing the information technology (IT) projects associated with these efforts. Specifically, while the department had developed project management artifacts such as charters and requirements management plans, none of these documents included all of the key details that could facilitate effective management of its projects such as full descriptions of the work necessary to complete the projects, cost and schedule baselines, or prioritized requirements, among other things. Department officials attributed these deficiencies to a lack of project management expertise.

Because HUD has not taken these foundational steps to fully define its modernization efforts, the department is not well positioned to successfully manage or execute the associated projects. These incomplete documents limit the department's ability to fully understand the work to be completed or accurately report project progress. A major reason for these information deficiencies is HUD's inadequate development and use of its project management framework, which did not ensure the quality or completeness of artifacts developed. Specifically, the framework did not always include essential guidance and, in other cases, the projects did not always implement the guidance provided. Further, the governance structure did not consistently operate as intended to provide adequate oversight to ensure compliance with key project management practices. As a result, the department increases the risk of continuing to inadequately apply project management practices and may not be positioned to effectively manage or report progress of its key modernization efforts. Fully implementing effective project management practices is critical for the success of these two modernization efforts and others under way or planned.

Why GAO Did This Study

HUD relies extensively on IT to carry out its mission of strengthening communities and ensuring affordable housing and has reported that efforts are under way to modernize its aging, duplicative, and poorly integrated systems. Committee report language mandated GAO to evaluate the implementation of project management practices for HUD’s IT modernization efforts. The objective was to identify the extent to which the department implemented key project management practices for the FHA Transformation and NGMS modernization efforts. GAO assessed project management artifacts for 9 FHA Transformation and 5 NGMS projects in the areas of project planning (charters, work breakdown structures, and project management plans), requirements management (requirements management plans and traceability matrixes), and acquisition planning (acquisition strategies) against best practices. GAO also interviewed officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that HUD establish a plan of action to fully implement best practices, provide needed project management expertise, and improve the development and use of its project management framework and governance structure. In written comments, HUD concurred with the recommendations to improve its framework and governance, but did not concur with the entirety of the recommendation to develop a plan of action, and contended that the need for project management expertise did not follow from the premises established in the draft report. GAO maintains that these actions are necessary as discussed in this report.

For more information, contact Valerie C. Melvin at (202) 512-6304 or melvinv@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To ensure that HUD effectively and efficiently manages its modernization efforts aimed at improving its IT environment to support mission needs, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should direct the Deputy Secretary to establish a plan of action that identifies specific time frames for correcting the deficiencies highlighted in this report for both its ongoing projects, as applicable, and its planned projects, to include (1) developing charters that define what constitutes project success and establish accountability, (2) finalizing deliverable-oriented work breakdown structures and associated dictionaries that define the detailed work needed to accomplish project objectives, (3) completing comprehensive project management plans that reflect cost and schedule baselines and fully incorporate subsidiary management plans, (4) establishing requirements management plans that include prioritization methods to be applied and metrics for determining how products address requirements, (5) completing matrixes to include requirements traceability from mission needs through implementation, and (6) establishing strategies to guide how acquisitions are managed in accordance with other processes and that performance metrics are established.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To improve development and use of the department's project management framework, the Secretary should direct the FHA Transformation and NGMS steering committees to ensure that project management expertise needed to apply the guidance outlined in the framework is provided to execute and manage their respective projects.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To improve development and use of the department's project management framework, the Secretary should direct the Chief Information Officer to ensure that revisions to the framework incorporate specific information to address the areas of deficiency in project planning, requirements management, and acquisition planning identified in this report.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To improve development and use of the department's project management framework, the Secretary should direct the Customer Care Committee to review the role and responsibilities of the Technical Review Subcommittee and ensure that the department's governance structure operates as intended and adequately oversees the management of all of its modernization efforts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

 

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