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Information Technology: Improvement Needed In Documenting Computer Systems

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Citation Edit

Government Accountability Office, Information Technology: Improvement Needed In Documenting Computer Systems (B-115369) (Oct. 8, 1974).

Overview Edit

The GAO reviewed U.S. federal agencies' documentation of computer systems.

The GAO noted that:

(1) governmentwide standards are not available to assist federal managers in deciding: (a) what type of documentation to prepare for automatic data processing (ADP) systems, programs, and mathematical computerized models; (b) how much to prepare; and (c) when and how to prepare it;
(2) although good documentation does not insure successful computer operations, inadequate documentation can: (a) increase the cost of federal operations; (b) weaken management control of ADP systems; (c) contribute to loss of funds and assets; and (d) limit the potential for sharing computer programs, particularly mathematical models;
(3) consistent preparation of adequate documentation under tight performance schedules requires standards or guidelines and continual review to insure compliance with the guidelines;
(4) since GAO's 1971 report, some agencies have prepared good guidelines while other agencies have not;
(5) GAO also noted a continuing lack of management review to insure adequate documentation;
(6) documentation should be kept to the minimum necessary to meet the needs of ADP users because of the high costs of documenting ADP systems;
(7) GAO developed a set of elements necessary for cost-effective sharing of computer models;
(8) GAO has published documentation guidance for federal agencies to follow when documenting automated accounting systems;
(9) deciding the type of ADP documentation and the amount of detail needed to satisfy different users' requirements is not a clear cut process;
(10) the first problem to be faced is setting standards for good documentation;
(11) the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) has completed some work in this area and has additional work underway;
(12) the second problem is to see that the work necessary for good documentation is performed; and
(13) this can be done by having government agencies establish review functions which will periodically check to see that the documentation has been completed.

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