to fix those problems on the fly," Teck said. "They went ahead and fired up the new system in September 2004. It was a debacle."

Colorado Gov. Bill Owens hired Deloitte Consulting in the spring of 2005 to audit the CBMS, which resulted in a laundry list of recommendations for salvaging the project. The audit's paramount directive was to hire a project management expert to be the single authority over IT projects. The Department of Health Care Policy and Financing developed the CBMS with the CDHS, which meant their executive directors were at war with each other over turf, Teck said.

The state needed one leader with the authority to approve a resolution that satisfied both agencies.

Enter Witwer

Rep. John Witwer said Owens persuaded him to resign his assembly seat to become the CBMS director in the summer of 2005, reasoning that his term was almost up and he was the most qualified person available at the time.

Having served on the Health and Welfare Committee and the Joint Budget Committee in the Legislature, Witwer was trusted by the governor as having the political savvy to reorganize the troubled CBMS to the Deloitte audit's specifications.

"Believe me, this was not an ego trip," Witwer said, adding that he met with feuding departments and negotiated a common ground on how their administrative processes would be affected by the changes in project management.

"I find when you sit these folks down, both sides are very cooperative," he said. "They want to cooperate. They just see things differently."

Witwer said the organizational changes required extra funding and staff, and he summoned his knowledge and connections to get funding increases from his former legislative colleagues. He added 26 employees to the roughly 40-person team already existing, which steadily led the CBMS into working order. Witwer's team worked with the vendor, EDS, to resolve logic errors that were misdirecting benefits eligibility. They also enabled the system to follow benefits recipients when those individuals moved to other counties and completed several other improvements.

The CBMS is now mostly stable, said Witwer, adding that the team was shifting much of its attention to making the program easier to use.

Although Colorado's November gubernatorial election likely will lead to Witwer's replacement as CBMS director, he predicts a smooth transition. Because most of the reorganization is complete, political skills won't be as crucial, Witwer said. The new director will merely continue what the current project team started.


Recent legislation passed in response to the CBMS's highly publicized troubles mandates several project management best practices.

Colorado CIO John Picanso said part of the legislation directs his Office of Information Technology (OIT) to participate in projects throughout their life cycles to ensure success, rather than its past practice of participating only after problems erupted.

"We're now sitting on evaluation committees; RFP committees; contract, negotiation and development committees," Picanso said. "We're working more closely with the vendors on those projects so we're able to get the same information the state agency gets at the same time, and we'll bring that information back into my office."

Huston said conflicting views of what constituted a successful project were at the heart of Colorado's dysfunctional IT projects, and legislation is directing the OIT to establish metrics for gauging success.

"This is going to be a long path, but we're started in the right direction," Huston said, adding that he is encouraging the OIT to base its metrics on a project's size and risk level instead of developing a single standard for all projects. Some legislators and government executives, he said, take a cookie-cutter approach to establishing metrics, which misguides project managers on some types of projects. And the OIT, Huston said,

Andy Opsahl  | 

Andy Opsahl is a former staff writer and features editor for Government Technology magazine.