An outside review of the rollout of Vermont Health Connect shows that a number of external factors contributed to the exchange's rocky start; it also identifies areas in which the state could improve its handling of future information technology projects.

Maine-based consulting firm BerryDunn released its report late last week.

The report acknowledges that the federally imposed launch date, changing federal expectations and requirements, Vermont's failed negotiations with the tech firm Oracle and poor cohesion within the team provided by CGI, the state's eventual vendor for the project, all hindered its implementation.

The BerryDunn report also suggests that understanding the external constraints is crucial to planning future IT projects.

Other health-related IT projects, known collectively as the Health Services Enterprise, must be built over the next few years to lay the groundwork for a public universal health care program in Vermont.

BerryDunn recommends that Vermont's project teams strive for better communication and transparency among workers and managers - including the involvement of executive leadership much earlier when things begin to go wrong. It also calls for more clearly defined responsibilities within teams and improved vendor management.

Richard Boes, the state's chief information officer, said there should be statewide standards for vendor management and dedicated staff, in addition to project managers, within state government to monitor procurement and the work of outside contractors.

The report states that CGI created a project team of more than 180 people who had little to no experience working together. An internal manager dedicated to overseeing contracted work could have identified that as a problem earlier and could have worked with executives at CGI to mitigate its impact on the project.

Boes said the recommendations in the BerryDunn report are important to implement across state government.

Roughly 70 percent of the state's IT systems are outdated and will need to be replaced. The governmental agencies that rely on those systems invariably want them to perform additional functions, Boes said.