Get with the program

There is no doubt about it — with the exception of military combat — managing a program or project, especially one that has a fair share of information technology thrown in the mix, is one of the most difficult jobs in government. Some liken it to going to work everyday in a minefield.

Expectations are typically sky high. Funding — if it's there at all — is often minimal. There are always an endless number of fingers ready to point in the program manger's direction if, and when, something goes wrong. And positive recognition: What's that? Unfortunately, program management also is a job that is not going to get any easier.

One reason for this is that the government increasingly relies on technology to carry out many of its most important missions — from defending the country to delivering essential social services. The tight link between IT and high-profile programs dramatically increases the stakes for project success and minimizes the room for failure.

If you've ever had your computer inexplicably freeze up, then you can understand why anxiety is nearly a constant feeling for government program managers whose job performance assessment hinges on those temperamental machines.

Simultaneously, the technical complexity of the projects and the sophistication of the program objectives keep increasing. The responsibility to make it all work falls ultimately on the head of the already heavily burdened program manager. Of course, the complexity also raises the chances of technical and organizational problems that will have to be resolved.

The good news is that government managers have not been idle. In the stories that follow, we'll explore a number of the ways in which program managers are improving their program and project management skills.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


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    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

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