In the trenches of the CIO Wargame

I recently found out what it really means when a CIO's IT projects' risks outweigh their rewards.

I recently found out what it really means when a CIO's IT projects' risks outweigh their rewards. I had cost overruns on a new project, and suffered congressional oversight on another project's operation and maintenance phase after cost overruns. Overall, I had something wrong with nearly every project.My five projects were going so poorly, the Government Accountability Office and the inspector general might as well have opened a satellite office outside my cubicle.Luckily, my shortcomings didn't waste tens of millions of dollars or delay important services to hurricane victims. Instead, it just brought down my three team members and me during the CIO Wargame Challenge, created and sponsored by Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. of McLean, Va., during the FOSE trade show in Washington earlier this month.The CIO Wargame is a board game that combines the basics of craps and Monopoly to simulate how CIOs, chief architects and other program managers make decisions.The game's goal is to bring projects into the operation and maintenance phase and earn as many mission value points as possible, while taking steps to reduce the risk of failures and setbacks. The team with the most points after five rounds won.Like in Monopoly, players had to make strategic investment decisions on which projects and IT capabilities to bet on; like in craps, the roll of the dice often determined how well a project paid off.I learned a hard but important lesson that most IT program managers learn at one time or another: Don't lose sight of short-term hazards while focusing on more long-term accomplishments.I was one of 98 people'including federal and state government officials and experts from industry and academia'who participated in the demonstration at different times over FOSE's three days. The 20 teams included players from 43 organizations, including the departments of Agriculture, Defense, Education, Labor, Transportation and Treasury, the General Services Administration, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Army, Navy and Defense Information Systems Agency.'The idea of a war game is intriguing because of the complexities of IT decision-making,' said John Low, a senior associate with BAH who developed the game with Greg Dupier and the company's modeling and simulation group. 'At a normal conference, someone usually is talking to the attendees, but with this, they are interacting with each other. The reaction was better than expected. Players were very enthusiastic.'It took my team, which included a University of Virginia professor of IT management, a New Jersey Office of IT official and an IT official from the Education Department, some time to work up our enthusiasm. We spent the first two rounds trying to understand the complexities of the game.In each round, teams had from one to three minutes to select from about 40 projects to invest in, make personnel decisions, settle on how much risk should be mitigated and decide on moves that could mean extra mission value points. There were many catches. Some projects required initial projects to be completed first. Some could take several rounds, while others were finished more quickly. And you could spend money to increase the time the project needed to reach the operation and maintenance phase.These decisions needed to be made quickly'not unlike in real-life situations'and there seemed to be a lot of information flowing from several directions at once. And we didn't really have a team leader until the professor took charge.I left the real decision-making to the professor and the guy from Jersey. They picked the projects and assigned personnel'keeping an eye on high mission value and low-risk projects'and decided how many contractors we hired, how best to mitigate our risks and whether to increase our mission value points. I kept track of the points, which were represented by black and yellow poker chips. These chips added to your team's ability to invest more resources in projects the next round.Each round ended with the croupier assigning risk to each project based on a number of pre-assigned values. Depending on the roll of the dice, your project either ran smoothly or ran into trouble. But by investing in portfolio management, enterprise architecture and extra staffing, you could mitigate the risk of a bad roll.After getting clobbered by risk in round 2, we rebounded nicely in rounds 3, 4 and 5, mitigating our risks to end up in third place.(GCN editorial director Wyatt Kash proved that luck and skill play a part in the game, as he jumped onto an experienced team of feds from the IRS, FBI, the Social Security Administration and the National Defense University that scored 169 points and won the overall championship.)Booz Allen's goal is to customize the game for each agency and have the senior staff play it. Low said they would charge agencies a nominal fee and they would show how the company's services could help address some of the IT management issues highlighted in the game.So what did I learn? Journalism is a lot less complicated that being a CIO, and to manage IT investments well, you must start by limiting risks, allocating resources with an eye toward the future and never, ever trusting the roll of the dice to determine whether your project succeeds.

PLACE YOUR BETS: Miller, at top, and his teammates warmed up to the game after the first couple of rounds.

Rick Steele



















A complex game









Roll of the dice









X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.