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Chapter 3. Best Practices

This section presents some exemplary practices used in eleven state-local government information systems projects in NYS. In each section we discuss one kind of practice that contributes to successful state-local information systems, outlining some specific things that project participants can do to help reach their goals. Each best practice narrative is followed by examples of various approaches used in these projects to achieve the desired result. The examples are not prescriptions. They are intended to demonstrate how good managers adapted these concepts to the specific needs of their projects.

Each state-local system project requires a somewhat different mix of these practices to guide it to a successful conclusion. These practices are presented in a logical order of first consideration. However, we stress that these are practices, not steps. A traditional way of thinking about a project is that a number of steps need to be completed in order to reach the project’s goals. If that kind of thinking could be captured in a picture, it might look like this chart:

While this kind of thinking is useful and important for managing activities, we urge you to think of these best practices, not as steps, but as ongoing areas of attention that exist throughout the project. The level of intensity that any one practice commands at any point in time will vary. For example, the amount of attention you give to defining the project purpose and scope will be very high early in the project and then take a back seat to other considerations - but it will not disappear. The first definitions of purpose and scope will be revised and refined as you and your partners learn more about the problem you are solving and the resources at your disposal. Even after the purpose and scope seem fine-tuned, there are likely to be new participants or new audiences who need to understand and accept it. This kind of thinking would look more like the chart below.

Keep these differences in mind as you move through this chapter.