Recent news that two separate state contracts with information-technology giant Deloitte Consulting had turned into disasters elicited groans across the Commonwealth. Despite Deloitte’s checkered history with projects in other states, Massachusetts’ Revenue and Labor departments hired the company to design major software systems. The tax-filing software that Deloitte delivered to the Revenue Department was so unusable that the firm’s contract was terminated, and the unemployment-benefits system built for the Labor Department was finished two years late and $6 million over budget.
These failures are evidence of a broader problem with government IT purchases: Public agencies — particularly individual departments that don’t regularly put multimillion-dollar contracts out to bid — are often short on the technical expertise needed to negotiate terms and supervise progress. This problem isn’t going away, and the state needs to address it more directly by centralizing IT strategy and planning in one top-level position.