Rescue hero: Michael Snyder

Michael Snyder faced a problem in May 2003 that he was sure he knew how to solve. The Defense Department's Manage the Business program, which received $22 million annually, was in trouble. It was created to optimize medical care and environmental safety for more than 9 million warfighters worldwide. But the program was exceeding costs, operating behind schedule and performing significantly below its requirements.

"It's a problem you come across often in [information technology] project management," Snyder said. When a program lacks proper management controls and standard processes are not in place, an activity that should take six months to complete can take a year, he said. "Costs might double or triple if you don't apply" proper program management controls, he added.

So Snyder rolled up his sleeves. He set up standard processes for the program, empowered managers and improved communications among them. "We use standardized processes for contracting, for finance, for project control that every manager follows, so we don't have everyone re-creating the wheel," he said.

By January 2004, he had gained control of a DOD program that has a direct bearing on the health of service members.

"Snyder saw an immediate opportunity to improve the acquisition processes within our organization," said Cori Hughes, senior communications analyst at the Resources IT Program Office in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, where Snyder works.

"He took the lead and communicated a number of strategic goals to increase process standardization and accountability," Hughes said.

Snyder also created a forum for handling communication issues. "We always have issues with communications between managers," Snyder said. But after the forum was created, the number of communication problems dwindled. More than 90 percent were resolved in a satisfactory manner, Hughes said.

Snyder, who is responsible for designing, developing and deploying Navy health systems, said he approaches IT conservatively.

"As good stewards of taxpayer dollars, we like to stick with what is proven stable and deliver technology as quickly as possible at the lowest cost possible," he said.


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Advice from the pros

Name: Michael Snyder.

Title: Program manager of the Resources Information Technology Program Office.

Organization: Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs.

Project: Manage the Business program.

On managing people: "I've always used a management-by-example approach," Snyder said. He likes to create a team environment in which others can take risks without feeling threatened. Project team members "need senior managers to provide top cover so they are able to go out and make decisions and keep projects on track," he said.

On managing processes: "We are CMM Level 2-certified," he said, referring to the Capability Maturity Model for software development, a process standard developed by Carnegie Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute.

On managing technology: "It's always tempting to go into bleeding-edge technology. Our normal practice is to stick with stable, proven technologies," he said.

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