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FCW : April 15, 2015
While completing projects on time and on budget is a priority for federal project management offices (PMOs), business partner satisfaction often suffers. In fact, CEB research found that, in both the public and private sectors, 70 percent of projects are delivered according to the original budget and deadline, but only 38 percent meet stakeholders’ expectations. Furthermore, our research determined that most PMOs have a significant percentage of portfolio value that is at risk due to troubled projects. In addition, a Government Accountability Office audit deter- mined that federal CIO risk ratings are often inconsistent with the actual risk profiles of their projects, suggesting that many “low-risk” fed- eral projects are misclassified. The key to overcoming those challenges lies with project manag- ers (PMs); their performance is the largest driver of achieving business outcomes. However, PMOs have historically been staffed with people who are overly process-oriented. Such PMs struggle to meet the pres- sures of a more dynamic portfolio of projects, which include more diverse project types and increased stakeholder scrutiny. Today’s demands require moving from a workforce that is focused strictly on meeting requirements to one with a more entrepreneur- ial orientation. Such PMs possess a willingness to forge partnerships and approach scope change as an opportunity to deliver greater value. They also possess key entrepre- neurial skills in the areas of stake- holder partnership, judgment, risk management and team leadership. Those are precisely the types of skills needed to facilitate govern- ment’s increasing adoption of agile development methods. The most effective entrepreneur- ial PMs are nearly 1.5 times more successful at delivering business outcomes than the average PM. However, our research indicates that fewer than 30 percent of PMs have that entrepreneurial skill set. Although building such a work- force is not easy, there are strategies agencies can use that don’t break the bank and don’t require clearing their existing PM benches: • Structure job descriptions to attract better candidates. PM job descriptions that focus on technical skills and certifications discourage candidates with entrepreneurial skills from applying. Progressive organizations write job descriptions that depict leadership opportunities with a broad scope and a strategic focus. • Use on-the-job learning to build skills. CEB research shows that on-the-job learning is three times more effective in boosting performance than formal training programs. Therefore, 70 percent of PM development efforts should be geared toward experiential learning. • Develop criteria for assessing entrepreneurial performance management. Aligning PM perfor- mance to specific guideposts that reflect entrepreneurial skills and business outcomes helps encour- age PMs to develop those skills. For instance, one of our clients sought input from the PMO community in identifying specific behaviors related to a PM’s ability to influ- ence others. The feedback included ensuring fewer vocal stakeholder opinions were considered and set- ting and defending clear boundaries for project roles and responsibilities. • Define a PM career path. At many organizations, unclear role progression stifles the ambition of talented PMs, who are forced to seek opportunities elsewhere inside (or outside) the agency. Developing a clear pathway for advancement within the PM space will help attract and retain talented professionals. The demand for strong business outcomes is placing new and chal- lenging conditions on federal PMOs. However, creating an environment that encourages and rewards entre- preneurial behavior will result in more effective PMs. n Building more agile project management offices Delivering business outcomes with continuously changing IT portfolios requires project managers to have a more entrepreneurial skill set Process-oriented project managers struggle to meet the pressures of a more dynamic portfolio of projects. Commentary | KRIS VAN RIPER AND LULIO VARGAS-COHEN KRIS VAN RIPER is a senior director and LULIO VARGAS-COHEN is a senior analyst at CEB. April 15, 2015 FCW.COM 11 0415fcw_011.indd 11 3/23/15 1:10 PM
March 30, 2015
April 30, 2015