The TaxWatch Research Blog

The TaxWatch Research Blog is a forum where our research staff can address topics and issues in a short format. Keep an eye on this space during Legislative Session for frequent posts making sense of the activity at the Capitol. 

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It's Time to Reform Florida's Information Technology Procurement and Oversight

"It's Time to Reform Florida's Information Technology Procurement and Oversight" provides a comprehensive analysis of the systemic problems in Florida's management of large-scale IT projects. Historically, these projects have been hindered by a series of recurring issues such as inadequate planning, ineffective contracting practices, and poor oversight, leading to significant concerns for taxpayers. Over the past 25 years, Florida has repeatedly restructured its oversight of these projects, with the Florida Digital Service (FL[DS]) being the latest entity established in 2020. Despite these efforts, the state continues to struggle with the successful implementation of enterprise-wide IT projects.

The report offers an in-depth critique of the current state of affairs and proposes a multifaceted approach to reform. It suggests the establishment of a joint committee within the House and Senate specifically dedicated to IT oversight, which would have exclusive authority over the governance of the FL[DS] and related IT policy and budget issues. This measure aims to provide a more consistent and focused oversight mechanism.

Additionally, the report recommends adopting a governance model, as detailed in Appendix A of the document, to guide future IT projects. It also advocates for statewide standardization of core agency business processes to reduce the need for extensive software customization, thereby simplifying IT project implementations.

An important aspect of the report is its focus on procurement reform. It suggests amendments to Section 287.057 of the Florida Statutes to allow for more interactive and transparent ITN (Invitation to Negotiate) processes, and to define and incorporate a vendor's "history of non-performance" in procurement evaluations. This is aimed at improving the quality and reliability of vendors involved in state IT projects.

To address the challenges of acquiring and retaining skilled IT professionals, the report proposes several strategies. These include fostering a more flexible work environment, offering signing or recruitment bonuses (similar to those provided in other public sectors like education and law enforcement), and revising job descriptions and salary structures to focus more on skill requirements rather than specific academic qualifications. Additionally, the report highlights the potential of establishing a talent pipeline in collaboration with the Chancellor of the State University System (SUS) to recruit top graduates in computer and information science.

The report concludes with a stern warning: failure to act on these recommendations could lead to continued failures in the delivery of enterprise-wide IT projects. It underscores the importance of state government accountability in making informed business decisions and conducting thorough planning and project management. Such actions are crucial for the success of multi-year, multi-million-dollar IT projects, and to minimize risk to the state. The Florida TaxWatch and Associated Industries of Florida urge the legislature to implement these corrective actions during the 2024 session, giving the Florida Digital Service a viable chance of success. The overarching message of the report is clear – without significant reform in IT procurement and oversight processes, Florida risks perpetuating a cycle of ineffective IT project management, thereby jeopardizing taxpayer investments and the efficiency of state-run IT operations​​.

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