The U.S. Department of Education is implementing a radical transformation of its information systems at the height of the student loan season, and the effort could falter badly. Specifically, the department is shifting from a system in which a single contractor provides pretty much everything — desktop, laptop, cell phones, network — to a system of six different contracts and supplier teams, whose respective efforts must then be made to mesh. In addition, it is simultaneously migrating its data centers from one contractor to another. Trying to compress so much change into a short period of time is challenging for the department’s in-house IT shop. Doing it at the height of the student loan season is downright foolish. It isn’t so clear why any of this is necessary, since the existing information system is working fine and its replacement will cost about 50% more to operate. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos needs to be briefed on the logic behind her agency’s risky IT moves so that she is ready if the student loan process goes haywire this summer. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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