Standards Australia is developing new national guidelines for IT governance and project management, because current standards are costing industry billions of dollars a year.
Due to the many different standards governing the industry, most of which centre on communication, Grace Removals Group IT manager Howard Malyon believes the development of such guidelines may rid the industry of its "cowboy" label.
"This is one industry where you can move between different companies, do the same task and find there is no common methodology being used."
Malyon said the idea of having standards to follow would make it much easier to move to another business, become productive in a much shorter timeframe and make it easier to understand what is going on.
Mark Bezzina, director of communications, IT and e-commerce standards at Standards Australia, said the aim of the new guidelines is to develop an "Australian consensus-based directive that covers the technical, business and contractual elements of information technology projects, management and contracts, including hardware, software, software development and outsourcing". The standards are expected to be available for public comment next year.
Bezzina said SA was also planning to develop new guidelines for general conditions of information technology contracts, IT project management, and case studies on IT project under-performance.
Malyon said it would be beneficial to the industry if there were guidelines on how contracts are put together and the design of software.
"At the moment each contract is written differently and requires reading many times to make sure all the pertinent information is understood.
"Software design might [also] benefit from following standards. I know there have been attempts to put standards into software design before, but unless companies are forced to adopt these standards nothing much happens with them."
Graham Andrews, CIO Asia Pacific for PricewaterhouseCoopers, was indifferent to Standards Australia's proposals, claiming "governance is only as good as the governors themselves".
"We have seen plenty of this on corporate boards. My experience of IT governance panels is mixed, [those] with and without policies. Where those involved have an understanding of the subject matter they work, and where they do not, it rapidly becomes a useless bureaucratic layer."
Malyon too is wary about the success of these sort of guidelines. "From past history unless government bodies demand proof of acceptance of these standards, most are passed over as being unnecessary."
Concerns about the high expectations of benefits that new IT projects bring to business were voiced at the 2002 World Congress on IT (WCIT) in Adelaide earlier this year. Many business leaders called for action to be taken to address hype in the IT market and a perceived lack of return on investment in IT projects.
In his address to the WCIT, Commonwealth Bank of Australia managing director David Murray delivered a scathing attack against the information technology industry saying it had failed to deliver on promises.
In support of these concerns, the 1999 Standish Group CHAOS survey also found that 84 per cent of IT projects are considered unsuccessful, either over time, over budget or without the functionality expected.
Backing up these claims, the US Department of Defense has reported that only 2 per cent of its software is able to be used as delivered.
It is expected the Australian national IT guidelines which Standards Australia is developing will deal with a number of issues, such as: lack of awareness and involvement at the CEO and board level, poor elicitation and documentation of requirements and specifications, lack of user consultation, failure to apply essential project management practices, excessive management expectations, personality clashes between members of the project team, 'artificial' deadline setting, and poor contracting decisions and management.
To be involved in the development of the new national guidelines for IT governance, contact Mark Bezzina on (02) 8206 6730.