project management

A recent informal survey of government professionals showed that leadership development training is the top priority for government agencies’ training programs, with leadership development the first priority of 28% of respondents for fiscal year 2011, and the first priority of 38% of the respondents for FY12. The informal survey was conducted by American Management Association (AMA) Enterprise Government Solutions.

It makes sense that government organizations are continuing to focus on leadership development and those skills that make a good leader great, with so many baby boomers retiring, and budgets tight. Keep reading →

The federal government’s record for acquiring major information technology projects has rarely earned high marks.

However, a new report from the Government Accountability Office identified seven occasions were agency IT acquisition investments were deemed successful. Keep reading →

Technology holds massive cost-saving potential, but the bleak budget outlook means engaging stakeholders and building solid relationships along with high-level leadership will be the most important factors in achieving innovation in government.

Technology innovation discussions at this week’s Executive Leadership Conference touched on the usual suspects — data center consolidation and the cloud – and the anticipated cost savings. Keep reading →

This article, the fourth in a series, originally appeared on, the website of the U.S. chief information officer and the Federal CIO Council. Richard Spires is CIO of the Department of Homeland Security and vice chair of the Federal CIO Council.

In my first three posts on the challenge of delivering successful IT programs, I introduced the topics of tiered governance and the need to have effective governance at the enterprise, portfolio, and program level. Now let’s move on to key program and project management disciplines.

Over the past two decades, I have conducted hundreds of program and project reviews. Through this experience, I have developed a sense of what does and what does not work.

The single most important element to program success is the skills and experience of the Integrated Program Team. (Former federal CIO) Vivek Kundra understood its importance – IPTs are number 9 in the “25 Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal Information Technology Management.” The 25 Point Plan specifies the inclusion of the business owner, IT and acquisition professionals, finance, human resources, and legal specialists.

The plan then states “At the hub of these IPTs is a strong and effective program manager who stewards the process from beginning to end.”

Nothing could be more true, and, in particular, I agree with the importance of having a skilled and experienced program manager (PM) and the need to have dedicated resources throughout the program lifecycle, co-location when possible, and aligning performance objectives of the IPT members.

Then what is the point of this blog, given my agreement with the 25 Point Plan? To emphasize and provide additional detail on two areas: the role and qualifications of the IPT members, to include both personnel representing the business and the IT specialists.

When organizations embark on large IT programs, it is critical to ensure the right business involvement. My second blog post discussed the need for program governance that has the right business executive engagement in program oversight.

But at a working level, it is necessary to have full-time representatives of the business who can not only successfully work within the IPT to define requirements of the system, but also support the trade-off analyses that are a constant in a program.

In assessing a program, I look for individuals on the IPT who are steeped in the current process end-to-end, who have true credibility with senior management, and who demonstrate flexibility to deal with unending change as a program unfolds and matures.

Unfortunately, these crucial individuals are all too often absent in Federal IT programs. The business simply does not give up the star players to fill these roles. Many times you will get specialists in particular business areas, but no one person who has an end-to-end knowledgeable view. This negatively impacts the change management process on a program, ultimately impacting the program’s schedule and cost. This does not in and of itself doom a program, but it is a predictor.

In regards to the IT specialists, there is a lot of focus on the program manager position, and to reiterate, you need a skilled and experienced PM. For large, complex IT programs, someone who has successfully managed and delivered numerous programs is vital. I recognize that we don’t always have the talent base to fill all PM positions with experienced PMs, but it is an absolute must for large and complex programs. What I find truly surprising, however, is how many programs will set up shop without all the other key IT management disciplines in place.

Large, complex IT programs vary greatly, so there is not one model that fits every IPT. The following positions, however, are typically core, and I consider programs that lack solid individuals filling these positions as high risk:

System Architect – this individual is both a technologist and engineer and can develop a technical solution to meet the requirements, and fully understand the Agency’s enterprise architecture and how this system will interoperate with our Agency’s systems and external systems.

Data Architect – for any highly data-centric system, this individual is an absolute must to ensure the proper integration of data from different unrelated data sources.

Requirements Manager – this is not the business lead discussed above, but the individual that understands the life-cycle of managing requirements, from elicitation through the requirements change management process, to test and evaluation.

Development and Integration Manager – too often, this individual is missing; but, if you are developing software or implementing a complex configuration of a COTS package, you need such an individual dedicated to this task.

Test Manager – this individual brings a solid end-to-end view of the testing process.

Configuration Manager – this individual accounts for everything, and runs a very tight change control process.

Operations Manager – an individual who knows how to field and operate systems is always required. As we drive to more incremental delivery in the federal government, this individual is even more critical because it is not unusual for programs to have a release in production, another in development and testing, and a third in requirements definition and design simultaneously.

Too often, I find the PM cannot point to individuals filling each of these key roles. Further, many times such roles “de facto” become filled by contractor personnel. I recognize that many successful systems have been delivered with contractors filling many of the roles above. My experience, however, at both IRS and now DHS, is that this again adds risk to a program. I much prefer a model of government personnel filling these roles.

It is not that the contractor personnel do not possess the competence. The key is for an IPT to be “integrated.” That is difficult to do with contractor personnel in some of these key roles. We need strong contractor teams to help us execute large complex programs. But even more importantly, we need strong government IPTs to provide leadership and oversight to direct the work.

Keep reading →

When it comes to buying and delivering government technology projects, few approaches seem to have caught the attention of federal officials the way agile development has.

And there’s good reason, according to management specialists from the Department of Defense, the Department of Agriculture, the FBI and the General Services Administration who spoke at a Washington forum Oct. 14 about how agile development is making inroads in government. Keep reading →

This is the second installment in a series of columns by Recovery Board Chairman Earl Devaney on the lessons he has learned from his work on the Recovery Board, which oversees the $787 billion Recovery program. The column originally appeared at

There’s nothing like a punch in the gut to get your attention. Keep reading →

The sheer size of the Department of Defense (DoD) makes streamlining IT operations or changing IT investment management daunting, yet this size makes the payoff of successes that much greater.

To achieve these successes, we are looking to reap the benefits of today’s leading edge thinking and technologies in many of the IT management efforts we have underway. Several of our initiatives dovetail nicely with the 25 Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal IT Management, such as the IT Enterprise Strategy and Roadmap and cloud computing strategy that the Department is currently developing. Keep reading →

When Shawn Kingsberry became the Chief Technology Officer of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board in 2009, it had a blank slate – just a few good ideas and the urgency to create a terrific website.

So Kingsberry rolled up his sleeves and led the effort to create, a site with bullet-proof security that attracted nearly one million visitors a month at its peak. It has become a model for disclosure and open government. Keep reading →

The effort to modernize America’s electric grid is well underway, with nearly $8 billion in federal funding since 2009 and states across the country hastening to deploy everything from electronic smart meters for homes to regional sensors capable of detecting and responding to power outages.

But major privacy and security problems for the smart grid effort could be on the horizon and present a host of challenges to federal agencies, according to multiple smart grid technology and policy experts. Keep reading →

The use of dashboards in the federal government took off when President Obama released his Open Government initiative in early 2009. Here’s a snapshot of where they are today, and some lessons learned from the pioneers.

Vivek Kundra is leaving the federal government after having served as its first chief information officer. Probably one of his most visible initiatives was to create the IT Dashboard which he used to publicly track the performance of information technology investments across federal agencies. There’s even a picture of President Obama studying Vivek’s on-line IT Dashboard! Keep reading →

Page 1 of 212