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FCW : January 2015
sample artifacts and reports to share good examples of what a functional requirements document consists of and the appropriate level of requirements definition for a series of agile develop- ment sprints, for example. The resource center would also provide a basis to update training pro- grams across the federal government. 2. It would create a network of experts. The PM COE would seek out and identify expertise in order to share it across the federal govern- ment. It would help develop communi- ties of interest in which practitioners from across government convene (both virtually and physically) to discuss the state of the art for their discipline, review artifacts in the resource center, discuss current issues and collaborate on approaches to resolve those issues. The goal is to develop an online learning community that crosses agency barriers while assisting pro- gram managers and program execu- tive leaders. 3. It would offer independent con- sultants for program management development and support. COE members would be available to help programs in need, whether they are just starting out or long established but struggling to succeed. With a mature PM COE model in place, the leaders of all major new programs should be required to use the PM COE as a way to ensure that they are adequately addressing all critical aspects of run- ning a successful program. Much as GSA’s 18F leads digital service develop- ment, the PM COE would lead program management practices. Too many programs fail right out of the starting blocks, and the PM COE could be instrumental by helping pro- grams at the beginning. In addition, leaders could avail themselves of a COE if they are struggling with a par- ticular aspect of program execution. And representatives of the PM COE could participate in TechStat sessions to help review programs. There are a few keys to success for this approach to work at the scale of the federal government. First, the model must rely on the expertise that lives in agencies and support it with a small, centralized governance and coordination function. There are world-class capabilities in all these disciplines in government; the key is to find them and use them for the benefit of all. Second, the PM COE culture would be about helping programs, not enforcing compliance. Senior leaders must come together as a “coalition of the willing” to foster a strong commit- ment to helping programs succeed so that program managers will be com- fortable seeking the help of the COEs. Finally, success depends on senior leaders prioritizing this movement in the same manner that they have with the other leading initiatives, such as OMB’s USDS. By making program management a priority, senior lead- ers will free experts from across gov- ernment to spend a small portion of their time to help create and sustain the COEs. This is not impossible. At the Inter- nal Revenue Service, we established 14 COE discipline areas under a uni- fied governance structure that made a significant difference in the execu- tion of the agency’s modernization pro- gram. Other agencies have had similar results, and we can use those programs as part of a governmentwide initiative. The good news is that such a model is inexpensive to establish, given the potential improvement to program delivery. A COE in a particular dis- cipline could be effectively run with two full-time people if it is possible to tap experts across government on a part-time basis for support. Together with a small team to handle the cen- tral governance and management of the PM COE, a dedicated team of 30 to 40 individuals could provide a robust PM COE. Given the billions of dollars wast- ed because of program management problems and failures, such an invest- ment in staff with the right senior-level support could provide an excellent return for our government in terms of dollar savings on programs — and, much more important, better mission and business outcomes from federal agencies. n Richard A. Spires has been in the IT field for more than 30 years, with eight years in federal government service. Most recently, he served as CIO at the Department of Homeland Security. He is now CEO of Resilient Network Systems. Retired Army Gen. Thomas R. Ragland is corporate development officer at the Ambit Group. His background spans more than 30 years of extensive strategic planning in both military and civilian federal contracting circles. January 2015 FCW.COM 27 Much as GSA’s 18F leads digital service development, the PM COE would lead program management practices. 0115fcw_026-027.indd 27 1/6/15 1:29 PM
November and December 2014