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FCW : January 2015
Previous “CIO Perspective” columns have focused on the importance of IT program management to support suc- cessful mission and business delivery. Five key elements were defined that must be in place for programs to have a good probability for success, and if even one of those key elements is not properly addressed, the risk of failure increases dramatically. One of the elements is having a set of skilled and experienced employees leading the program, while another is ensuring that a set of mature manage- ment processes is defined and executed to run the program. There must be an appropriate system development life cycle, which lays out the approaches to designing, developing, testing and deploying the system. But there must also be a robust set of project man- agement disciplines, which include scheduling, estimation, requirements, configuration and risk management processes. Based on our experiences working for the government and now in the pri- vate sector serving federal customers, agencies face a shortage of seasoned, skilled employees in all the program management disciplines. That shortage extends beyond program managers to other key positions, including require- ments and system engineering leads, development and test managers, and operations managers. As a result, government employees are often thrust into program manage- ment roles without formal training and without the experience to understand whattodoandhowtodoit.Wecom- pound the issue by thinking training will solve everything. Though ben- eficial, training cannot make up for experience. And too often, those in program management leadership roles have nowhere to turn for help. Consequent- ly, they often rely on contractors for support, and although there are excel- lent firms that can provide expertise, contractor support does not instill the institutionalization of program manage- ment approaches necessary to improve agencies’ capabilities over time. We still need a skilled cadre of program manag- ers who can acquire, deliver and man- age the solutions. There is, however, a model that has made a meaningful difference in agencies’ ability to deliver successful IT programs, and it could scale to sup- port the entire federal government. We advocate the establishment of Program Management Centers of Excellence (PM COE) that draw on best practices from the commercial sector, capital- ize on pockets of excellence through- out government, and provide help for programs on initiation and throughout their life cycles. We must recognize that running a successful, complex IT program requires numerous disciplines, such as requirements management, systems engineering and development manage- ment, to name a few. Individuals spe- cialize in those areas, and we want to make sure we are bringing together the right skills and best practices for each of the disciplines in a coordinated manner — hence the plural “centers of excellence” coordinated under the ban- ner of Program Management Centers of Excellence. The PM COE would have three pri- mary functions: 1. It would gather best practices into a single resource center. Pri- marily, COEs identify and codify meth- ods, processes, sample work products and tools that represent best practices in a particular discipline housed in an accessible, centralized library. For example, a Requirements Man- agement COE would help define the appropriate methods and tools to use in defining and then managing requirements for different types of IT programs — such as application devel- opment and the integration of commer- cial software. The library would hold BY RICHARD A. SPIRES AND THOMAS R. RAGLAND Creating governmentwide Program Management Centers of Excellence could save countless programs that are otherwise doomed to fail — and do so on the cheap A new model for program management CIOPerspective 26 January 2015 FCW.COM 0115fcw_026-027.indd 26 1/6/15 1:29 PM
November and December 2014