States seek project discipline

Survey reveals trend toward statewide project management

A new survey shows that state officials are intent on raising the bar for managing information technology projects to reduce the number of costly failures.

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) released a report in October on state governments that are creating statewide project management offices to improve oversight of IT initiatives.

Until NASCIO conducted its survey, state officials lacked a big-picture view of how other states were managing IT projects. Each state has essentially directed and developed its project management methods and procedures without the benefit of sharing those experiences in a national forum.

"The value of project management inside state government is growing," said Dell Ford, director of South Carolina's Project Management Office. "That was one of the things that was important for NASCIO to recognize and help us promote."

Beverly Cummings, co-chairwoman of NASCIO's forum advisory group on project management, said state officials envision the survey report as a living document. It provides a baseline for monitoring and documenting project management practices, she said.

Officials in 33 states and Washington, D.C., responded to the survey, said Cummings, a program manager for IT planning at South Carolina's Project Management Office. However, only three states were involved when NASCIO began the survey in May. Officials in other states have indicated they will respond to future surveys, she said.

Cummings said NASCIO's involvement could help states share knowledge, educate individuals and assist with promoting the culture change that IT projects require. State officials also want to explore whether they can align their training certification initiatives with federal certification programs, she added.

Interest in collaboration has led some state officials to consider forming a nationwide organization for state project managers. Chuck Fallaw, South Carolina's deputy CIO and co-chairman of a NASCIO advisory group, said the group is discussing the feasibility of forming a national association of public-sector project managers that would be similar in purpose to NASCIO.

No nationwide statistics exist on the number of certified state government project management professionals, a need NASCIO representatives said they hope to address. Most states don't classify project management as a career path because many employees with such expertise have other job titles, Ford said.

The project management profession is growing by leaps and bounds, said James McGeehan, public relations manager at the Project Management Institute.

The institute, however, does not keep statistics on that growth within state government, he said. Only anecdotal evidence exists to show that program management has become a critical competency within states.

McGeehan said assisting state governments with project management is an important objective in the institute's strategic plan.

"We're seeing an embracing of program management at all levels of government, quite honestly, not just at the state level," McGeehan said.

Resources are limited, he added. "Every level of government is looking for the discipline or the competency that will help them do more with less," he said.

NASCIO surveys project management activities

State governments have been expanding their use of project management to reduce the risk inherent in expensive information technology initiatives, according to a recent survey. Officials in 33 states and Washington, D.C., responded to the survey conducted by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, which found that among the respondents:

  • 100 percent are considering or are in the process of creating a statewide project management office.
  • 82 percent set priorities for projects, and 79 percent said the CIO office is responsible for decisions about launching systems.
  • 71 percent said agencies leading a project should handle specific management decisions related to the project.
  • 79 percent said lack of organizational change management has led to IT project delays or failures.
  • 80 percent said they are planning, implementing or already have an IT project inventory and tracking process in place.
  • Nearly 30 percent said project management is a civil service title in their state.

-- Dibya Sarkar

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