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The ACE Project

Title Author(s) Type Topic(s) Comments Date
The ACE ProjectGibson, Cyrus F.
Reiss, David
Keevan, William
Working PaperIT-based Business Transformation02004-09-04
Abstract: The Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) project in the Customs and Border Protection Agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was one of the largest systems development and organizational modernization projects in history outside the Defense Department. Intentions to replace legacy systems for support of Customs officers and others began in the 1980s, but not until 2001 was funding approved. Approval came after reconceptualization of the role of IT in relation to business change ("modernization" over a strictly technical project), a new partnership with companies dependent on Customs for the international movement of goods, and adherence to principles of management and sourcing imposed by the General Accounting Office. The events of September 11, 2001 resulted in major organizational changes involving Customs, and a new role and new requirements for ACE, affecting its architecture and governance. (Potential users, for example, went from 20,000 to 40,000). All along, careful attention had to be given to the impact of new automation and work and process changes on users. As the life of ACE extended beyond the tenure of senior managers, further concern at the time of the case was the extent to which the transfer of leadership would ensure continuity of focus and effective project management. This case (current as of April 2004) documents the management issues that arise in very large IT-enabled change in the federal government, change requiring decades from conception to success. While specific aspects of the case are unique to the federal government, such change efforts and the associated IT-projects are arguably the wave of the future for all sectors. Managing such change and dealing with the complexities of such projects are capabilities worthy of consideration for many large organizations.

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