Miller: Focus on the people

Interoperability among people and processes defines program management

It has been nearly 10 years since the Clinger-Cohen Act was passed, and what a difference 10 years make. From a time and place many described as chaotic, we've evolved to today's measured government environment. The new business of government values efficiency in the form of savings, performance in the form of achieved metrics and results in the form of services for citizens

and businesses. Government now focuses on outcomes that matter to people and businesses.

Some amazing transformations have occurred to create this environment.

Policies have changed. Executive orders, laws, memos and Office of Management and Budget bulletins have been issued. Various bills have addressed perceived weaknesses in how the government operates or delivers services to people and businesses.

Government oversight has also changed. The "M" in OMB has become more important. No longer an organization focused primarily on budget formulation and appropriations, OMB has increased its management clout by overseeing government agencies and even initiatives in the space between agencies. The government has abandoned agency stovepipes in favor of collaboration and shared objectives and interests.

Technology innovation has also quickened and continued. Government officials think bigger and broader and seek greater economies of scale and consolidation. The Internet has opened minds to a whole new world of customer expectation and service.

Amid those changes, management challenges significantly increased. Agencies learned to value people, processes and the maturing practice of program management.

Program management as a discipline has influenced government in several areas, including:

  • Oversight. Agency leaders and OMB increasingly set agencies' agendas and objectives. Today's management policy agendas frequently include capital planning, portfolio management, enterprise architecture management, business case development, performance metrics, risk management, performance-based contracting, outcome measurements and score cards, among other program management trends.

    Results are the common thread. The business case, which is both strategic and tactical, has become the building block of governance, providing the foundation for government achievement.

  • Collaborations. Government officials now recognize that problems can't be solved in isolation, so they have embraced collaboration as a mainstream management tool. They've expanded conference room tables to include representatives from other organizations, disciplines and agencies.

    Councils are recognized as effective cross-agency management bodies. The CIO Council matured from an organization of shared interests to an active coordinator of the President's Management Agenda. The Chief Financial Officers Council became more visible and accessible, while the newly formed Chief Acquisition Officers Council and Chief Human Capital Officers Council established new collaborations. And each council has its share of committees and subcommittees. Who sits at the table is as important as who owns it.

  • Project management offices. According to a Gartner report, "organizations that establish enterprise standards for project management, including a project office with suitable governance, will experience half the major project overruns, delays and cancellations of those who fail to do so." In other words, government officials now recognize that structured business practices contribute to the success of projects and even entire enterprises.

    As a result, OMB, the CIO Council and the acquisition community are developing and placing skilled program and project managers to lead the government's most important initiatives. It also explains the push to hone managers' skills through program management certification.

  • Lessons learned. Government officials have learned to learn from one another. Conferences and seminars abound. Lessons learned are a mainstay of every council and government committee, and they appear on most agencies' Web sites.

    Core.gov is a Web-based source for business process and technical components. It is a product of the Federal Enterprise Architecture Program Management Office's effort to support cross-agency collaboration and transformation. The Solutions Exchange is the CIO Council's clearinghouse for reusable investments across government and a resource for program and project managers to accelerate deployment and reduce costs.

    What about tomorrow?

    What does the future hold? It is and will be about culture, people and processes, not technology. You would be hard-pressed to find a discussion about the government's future that reaches a different conclusion.

    At last year's Industry Advisory Council's Executive Leadership Conference, Mark Leavitt, who was the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency at the time, said that the government has entered the age of interoperability, in which networks and collaboration drive results.

    Interoperability among the people and processes of government is the definition of program and project management.

    Miller is a senior vice president with Robbins-Gioia and former director of information technology professional development at the General Services Administration, where he led the SmartBuy initiative.

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