What to do about MNIT?
In the state of Minnesota we have a program that is supposed to provide technical services to the state executive branch and to local governments. In theory this is a really great idea, and such a centralized service could do a lot for the state of Minnesota, there is only one problem. MNIT is simply not capable of doing the job.
The structure of an organization is very crucial in determining how successful it will be in delivering on its promises, and MNIT is not structured in a way that would allow it to succeed. MNIT also seems to be lacking the real technical skills that would allow it to actually succeed. Within the over-sized body of executive leadership technical experience seems to be the exception and not the rule. The organization seems to be filled with people who have management experience, but sparse on people who know the inns and outs of building software, securing networks, and engineering systems. In fact, some of my colleagues have openly laughed at what their website markets as "app development".
This is not to say that there is any malicious waste going on, only that the people in charge do not know what to ask for or even what questions to ask. In reality if the organization was far less top heavy, removed almost all of the middle management, and hired more dynamically then the issues would go away.
Development environments work best when you have crafted teams of subject matter experts who work in tandem to complete a project. Because the projects are largely coming from the needs that state organizations have, there is not really any need for anyone in between the executive leadership and these teams.
To go one step further, if the requirements for a development project are known, there is no reason to not open that project to the public, and offer a "bounty" for completion. Under that model, the MNLARS program probably could have been completed for about $2 million, because in all reality a hard working team of 5 subject matter experts could probably put together a solid application in a relatively short period of time.