HUD creates central program office
- By Sara Michael
- Oct 13, 2003
The Department of Housing and Urban Development plans to create a management office to oversee enterprisewide projects.
The Enterprise Program Management Office (EPMO) in the Office of the Chief Information Officer would manage cross-department programs, ensure quality assurance, and guide program and project managers.
The new office is awaiting top-level approval, said Dick Burk, HUD's chief architect. The proposal will be considered in the near future, he said.
"There seems to be general support in the organization," Burk said. "I think it makes a heck of a lot of sense."
A few years ago, HUD started building its enterprise architecture program and found there was no central office responsible for enterprisewide programs. The current program review system is "undocumented and piecemeal," Burk said. "It's not uniform across [the agency], and our attempt now is to standardize this and make it uniform."
"We found there is no home for an [information technology] program at HUD," said Graham Barrowman, founder and principal of Consortia Enterprise Architecture LLC, who worked closely with department officials on the enterprise architecture. "Where does an initiative go when it crosses the organization?"
Office of Management and Budget officials are increasingly looking for strong management and accountability with cross-cutting projects, Burk said, and HUD officials wanted to be responsive to those concerns.
The new office would be responsible for the program every step of the way. Program managers could report to the office to make sure they were following the architecture and policies, Burk said. For example, the chief information officer is legally in charge of the financial management systems, but the program office would provide the guidance, metrics, oversight, timelines and accountability, Burk said.
"They're not reporting to IT, but they will know very much upfront how IT will be evaluating and managing this," he said.
The EPMO would oversee cross- cutting projects, such as workflow management, even if they touch only two program areas, Burk said. The office also would monitor projects related to core business functions, such as grants and single-family insurance, even if they are housed at only one program office. "We refer to them as enterprisewide because they are a part of the architecture," he said.
Many state and local governments have taken similar approaches to enterprisewide programs. In an effort to better invest in IT, a couple years ago Virginia developed a project management division to function as an EPMO.
"We use that life cycle of investments," said Dan Ziomek, manager of the project management division within the Virginia Information Technologies Agency. "We run the agency IT strategic planning process."
The division determines what programs are enterprisewide and manages the programs, which saves the organization money by reducing redundancies and building on a common architecture, Ziomek said. It also helps increase visibility of the major programs.
"We get an early indication that a project is in trouble," he said. Top-level officials "can work with the agency to bring the resources to bear to fix the project. What we're finding is that projects are going much smoother."
Scott Bittler, vice president of enterprise planning and architecture strategies services for META Group Inc., said an EPMO is necessary for effective portfolio management.
"There's no such thing as a mature enterprise program management function without a program management office that's responsible for it," he said. "You end up with a nonoptimal portfolio."
An EPMO centralizes the responsibility and mitigates cross-department risks, which are greater than the risks for individual projects. With a grasp of enterprisewide programs, organization officials can monitor how programs relate to one another, he said. The office can also aggregate the data that helps officials determine which programs should be continued, he said.
"Any project manager worth their salt manages risk well, but who is responsible for managing aggregate risk of the portfolio across the portfolio?" he said. "In the absence of the EPMO, generally no one in the organization feels ownership of these things and we see problems."
Agencies seeking to form an EPMO, should start slow, Bittler said, building the office over months or years. The office should assume a more passive, monitoring role at the outset and slowly move into a more managerial role.
"Lean and mean is the way to proceed in the way of staffing," Bittler said. "It's not super project management here. It's about facilitating and managing these processes.... [It's] not making the decisions, but helping make them."
Patricia Davis-Muffett, vice president of marketing for Robbins-Gioia LLC, said agencies must achieve a supportive culture for the enterprise office to be successful. One solution is starting with pilot projects, bringing them under the office's direction before rolling out the rest of the enterprisewide programs. "Then you'll have some internal champions who will say, 'Yeah, I like this. It works well,' " she said. "They can be internal advocates."
Paul Wohlleben, a partner in the global public sector division at Grant Thornton LLP, said more civilian agencies are picking up on the practices of private industry and even the Defense Department. DOD follows an EMPO-like structure with its program executive offices. "The civilian agencies are starting to focus on the fact that they need to manage the large programs differently," he said.
"DOD has done it for many years and had some success."
Cutting the stovepipes
The Department of Housing and Urban Development's Enterprise Program Management
Office would bring consistency to the management of programs that cut across business
lines and programs related to core business functions. Here are a few examples.
* Workflow management initiatives.
* Enterprise records management initiatives.
* Grant programs.
* Single-family housing or home ownership programs.
Source: Department of Housing and Urban Development