"This stuff is hard work and enormously complicated," said Taylor, noting that such projects typically involve very old systems and complex interrelationships. "Outsourcing doesn't eliminate that problem."

Virginia's initiative may be confronting a few political hurdles, too.

Almost any long-term IT project eventually suffers from leadership turnover, Taylor said. "It's almost inevitable that they'll run into trouble. The people who were around and thought it was a good idea are no longer in office in a term-limited environment. So the project becomes an orphan because of process issues."

And outsourcing itself may be a victim of a political shift where privatization of government operations is losing favor. "Large outsourcing contracts had a subtext to them that government employees are incompetent, so let's let the private sector do it," he said. "Now, there's a view that if we bring these projects in-house we'll have more control."

Still, Taylor doesn't view problems in Texas and Virginia as a death knell for outsourcing initiatives. Instead, they highlight the need for public agencies to develop proficiency in managing long-term vendor relationships.

"I don't think outsourcing is dead or even dying in this sector, but it should prompt a review of governance structures," he said. "It should prompt a look at whether we have the bench strength to initiate, negotiate and manage these kinds of enterprise initiatives."