A great need for FPA and Estimating

In October 2009 the House of Representatives of the Dutch Government decided to execute more investigations by composing an annual Future- and Research Program. One of these Investigations is the research into Governmental ICT-projects. Despite more attention and improvement some ICT-projects are still too expensive and problematic. The safety and privacy aspects of ICT-projects show us the urgency of the need to organize these projects better. In July 2012 a Temporary Committee on Government ICT Projects was formed. In October 2012, after the elections for the House of Representatives, this Research Committee started in its definitive formation. On October 15, 2014 they presented their final report.

Main conclusions

Six of the main conclusions from the report apply to Function Point Analysis and Estimating:

  1. The Dutch government does not have its ICT projects under control
  2. Politicians may not realize it, but ICT is everywhere
  3. The government is not achieving its policy ambitions for ICT
  4. The governance structures for ICT projects are very poor
  5. The government is insufficiently aware of the costs and benefits of its ICT projects
  6. The government’s ICT knowledge is inadequate
  7. ICT project management is weak
  8. ICT procurement processes incorporate perverse incentives
  9. The contract management of ICT projects is unprofessional
  10. The government lacks the ability to learn from its mistakes concerning ICT


Function Point Analysis and Estimating are part of the solution for the following recommendations:

1. A temporary ICT-bureau will be instituted: the Bureau of ICT Review
8. The savings and social return of the ICT-policy have to be made visible
10. Continue with the centralisation of ICT procurement and government-wide facilities for ICT services
12. The government needs to collect and analyse the data of as many ICT-Projects as possible. The project management utilizes the found patterns in the data
13. There should be an annual report on the ICT-costs of the government
24. Management and employees need to facilitate their Boards with realistic information concerning the status of a project
26. Past results of a supplier are playing a role in the consideration of tenders

Information to the Investigation Committee

The government doesn’t have her information and (digital) archives in order or there is no documentation at all. This means the House of Representatives cannot pursue her constitutional right to make parliamentary inquiries.

The ICT ambitions of the Dutch Government

The following points in the ICT-policy leave a lot to be desired:

  • The execution of the ambitions for the improvement of the internal as well as the external services
  • The control of ICT-projects
  • The stimulation of open standards and open source
  • The ambitions are higher than the government can live up to
  • Is far from the digital transformation that is needed to stay connected with the digital society
  • Is not focussed on results (knowledge about the savings of the current ICT-policy is missing)

The committee blames this on:

  • A deficient controlling
  • A lack of sense of urgency with the Ministers
  • The divided responsibility of the ICT-portfolio over four Ministries gives a lack of central control
  • The independence of Ministries and other governmental organisations stands in the way of the ICT-ambitions and hinders the execution of these ambitions

The committee asks more attention for benefit management. The savings and social return of the ICT-policy need to be made visible by an annual Business Report of the Government.

The committee proposes to give the Minister of Internal Affairs, just one Minister, the central and overriding authority on the area of digital transformation of the government. This means that the common goal of the digital transformation government wide is assured and results will be accomplished faster.

Control of Government ICT projects

The project data to collect for good project control are, according to the Committee:

  • The size of the project in Function Points
  • Based on data of previous projects one can estimate how many hours are needed to realise a Function Point
  • The investment in a project
  • The time that is needed to finish a project
  • The number of people in a team
  • The software product quality

The Governmental ICT-dashboard contains just two project data: costs and time. These two are based on the project size in Function Points. However, these data are not mentioned on the current ICT-dashboard (and not always measured probably). This is the most important failure. If it is not clear how large a project will be, the costs and time cannot be estimated either.

The accountability and decision making structure

The responsibilities are spread, with the result that decisions within projects are made too late or not at all. The current system with CIO’s, that is implemented to improve the control, has accomplished good things, but:

  • CIO’s and the CIO government give controlling the ICT-projects insufficient priority
  • CIO’s are too busy with the ICT-support of the business and too little with the ICT-projects in the policy area
  • CIO Government has too little overriding authority to intervene with projects that get out of hand

The Committee advises:

  • Establish a Bureau of ICT Review that delivers binding advice to CIO’s
  • The Management of Information Policy collects continuously and structurally the right project data of all large government-wide ICT-projects
  • With these data there is to be built a government wide database, which makes it possible to compare projects and to advise the Management of Information Policy about the status of projects

 A good start is half the work

There are many problems with the start and execution of projects, caused by a too large ambition, the complexity and size of the ICT-projects. Before starting, make well balanced decisions based on:
Proper use of business justifications.

  • Start Review
  • Technical Design
  • ICT-feasibility test
  • Test on BIT-rules (Bureau ICT-Review)

Project and financial management

Standard processes en procedures are not followed:

  • Risks are not or not completely in control
  • Users are not involved or too late
  • Tests are not all of a good quality
  • The results are not used


  • Educate people so they can manage large projects
  • Provide external incentives for civil servants to finish a project within time and budget
  • Reward hired professionals (ICT-suppliers) for finishing projects good and fast

The relationship with suppliers

If the government consults suppliers before and during tenders, the tender procedure can accelerate, become cheaper and realizable.

The role of the House of Representatives

The recommendations of the committee are necessary for taking control of ICT-projects of the government. Only then the members of the House of Representatives can ask good questions and the Ministers can give good answers. The committee proposes to:

  • Keep briefings in the House of Representatives
  • Increase ICT-awareness through the political groups with the Ministers as well as the House of Representatives
  • Let the BIT (Bureau of ICT Review) review the motions and bills
  • Add a decision making framework ICT to the form of the Council of Ministers

An English summary of the report can be downloaded from the website of the House of Representatives.

Parlementaire onderzoekscommissie ICT

About the author

René Notten is owner of metrieken.nl, that helps organisations to attain insight and control over costs and time for software development and management. They quantify functionality with Function Point Analysis. Based on this analysis a realistic estimation can be made for the time and costs. See also the discussion topic in the forum.


A blog post represents the personal opinion of the author
and may not necessarily coincide with official Nesma policies.
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