TSA puts project management on vitamins

Officials from the Transportation Security Administration's Office of Information Technology (OIT) have done the management equivalent of popping a multivitamin.

OIT's Project Control Office (PCO) has bulked up from a disjointed three-person office to a powerhouse that combines the original staff with experts from OIT. Agency officials said the PCO's performance boost has been remarkable.

The idea of a PCO is not novel, but the IT office's approach to creating one is unconventional.

The original PCO, established in September, consisted of two contractors and one government employee. By doubling the contractor staff and adding five government workers in the past month, members of the office now boast better communications, greater efficiency and a tighter business unit. Their primary focus is the billion-dollar Information Technology Managed Services contract with Unisys Corp.

Oddly enough, too much success is the greatest concern for PCO officials. And this potential problem lurks on the horizon, said Andrew Anderson, chief of the project office. The reason for the concern is that officials may be overwhelmed with work as they expand beyond the services contract. The greatest challenge is to remain dynamic and responsive to the agency. "You have to continually think about what's important to management to keep the PCO fresh, updated and renewable," Anderson said.

Because of the PCO's proactive mission, officials strive to remain one step ahead of the demands of agency leaders. "Your boss is worrying about too many things," said Anderson, adding that PCO staff must anticipate leadership demands.

One goal of integrating the office was to more effectively apply employees' expertise. Anderson said the PCO's workload capabilities have exploded. For example, he said, with the restructured office, managers can approach information from a management perspective rather than focus on details. This shift helps PCO officials take proactive steps to oversee budgets, resources and performances.

But it is too early to determine whether the agency's enhanced PCO will set a trend for other agencies looking to invigorate their IT management structure, according to Michael Przepiora, director of OIT's Center for IT Solutions Delivery.

"It's generated a lot of interest," he said. "They've seen our success. ... Over time, it will probably prove itself as the correct practice."

Anderson said the office's transformation sprouted from sound business practices. "The organization was ripe for it," he said. "Could you do the same thing at [the Agriculture Department]? If the timing is right, anything is possible."

Originally, the office had a separate performance manager, quality manager and financial manager report to the IT solutions delivery office. Middle managers largely led a grass-roots campaign to reorganize the information flow and the management structure. The need for consolidation appeared when Przepiora's middle managers suggested improving the structure and efficiency of the PCO.

Since the restructuring, the PCO gained a financial manager, a performance manager and other experts who bolstered the office's performance capability. Consequently, the office can better manage information, analysis, trends and data on the status of all programs to help managers within OIT make smarter decisions.

"Before I had to round up four or five key managers and bring them in to a room to address issues," Przepiora said. "It's easier now because I can communicate with one senior manager to get things done."

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