A sweeping software project spearheaded by state worker Kate Nolan drew praise for its good management from a legislative audit Tuesday.

But in a brief interview Tuesday evening, Nolan made clear that she had to fight her superiors over the past two years to make sure the project stayed on track.

"You could not disagree with patently ridiculous ideas" from higher-level officials, said Nolan, who is retiring by this summer at the age of 55. "I'm tired. I'm just really, really tired."

Nolan declined to give in-depth reasons why she felt beaten down by her bosses.

Nolan's statements are not the first time the state Department of Administration has been accused of not listening to concerns from tech staff such as Nolan. Last month, the Wisconsin State Journal reported that another project within the same agency went off track after a political appointee, Matt Miszewski, ignored warnings from other IT workers across state government.

Miszewski has not responded to requests for comment.

Nolan, a project manager, was respected by many in state government. Miszewski's newly named replacement, Oskar Anderson, said earlier Tuesday he didn't believe Nolan was retiring because of lack of support from agency higher-ups.

"It's always a blow to lose a good person," Anderson said. But as for any reasons involving Nolan'ssuperiors, "she's not given that indication to me."

The relatively new business software project headed up by Nolan, known as IBIS, aims to replace 100 types of software used to handle accounting, budgeting, human resources and other functions across state government, the audit found.

Planning for the IBIS project included efforts to recalculate periodically the costs and potential savings from the project to check if changes were needed, according to a report Tuesday by the Legislative Audit Bureau. That was not done on the project championed by Miszewski and reported on by the State Journal, which aimed to overhaul back-office state computers called servers.

In spite of that good early planning, the audit also found problems remain for IBIS:

Cost estimates for the project through 2011 range from $67 million to $116 million, making it difficult to determine how much taxpayers would have to pay for it.

While costs are uncertain, estimated savings have declined. In spite of a consultant's 2005 estimate that the project could save the state $514 million over 10 years, the state in December estimated savings will be less than $91 million.

The state has already spent some $5 million on the project and Gov. Jim Doyle is proposing $20 million more over the next two years, according to the audit and Anderson.

The audit found the IBIS project faced a risk of failure from the difficulties of customizing software for several agencies, coordinating outside contractors and keeping agencies' existing systems afloat if the new software is delayed.

State Sen. Rob Cowles, a member of the joint audit committee, said the Legislature shouldn't provide more money for the program until it can be shown that it will work. Anderson said the effort is a "top priority."

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