Lisagor: One small step

We recently gathered 100 government project managers and asked them to address the top information technology program issues. The resulting discussions, while perhaps not earthshaking, were definitely one small step toward more successful IT programs.

Here are some of the observations they shared:

n Identify responsibilities. They vary depending on the nature of the project. Taking the time to define a project's starting point is necessary for measuring progress and success. A well-defined baseline can be used to assign responsibilities, manage expectations, help resolve differences among stakeholders and overcome cultural barriers. Then you can share project details with individuals based on their responsibilities.

n Involve employees early when analyzing alternatives, so they will have a stake in the final product. Use prototypes or a statement of objectives — the project's vendor can help with the latter. Consider larger business processes. Focus on gaps in strengths and weaknesses.

n Establish and integrate IT governance processes into projects and plan to measure their performance.

n Communicate with all employees involved in the project, and be honest. Make communications a critical success factor for every program.

n Develop a formal plan for managing risks. Clearly define requirements. But don't share risk management templates with stakeholders until you can explain how to apply them and know how to manage expectations.

n Use the business case process to aid in starting and managing your project, not just as a paper exercise. When making decisions, ask: What is the value of doing the project? What is the impact of not doing it? The Office of Management and Budget's Exhibit 300 is a good template to follow, even if you are not required to submit one.

n Appreciate the importance of earned value. The earned value section of the Exhibit 300 is difficult to fill out because the information is often missing from a contract's baseline. Past performance and cost/

schedule data can be hard to access or lacking. Managers have been slow to develop the ability to measure performance on many projects, but it is a skill worth cultivating.

n Have project managers shadow more senior program managers and participate in developing the Exhibit 300 business case for an entire program. Support creation of a career path for agency project managers. Also, update the job series to allow for a clear distinction between project and program managers.

n Guidelines to always keep in mind: Minimize dysfunctional behavior. Find ways to capitalize on successes. Align the scope of a project with its governance. Establish clear goals and objectives.

Those insights were expressed in only the first 20 minutes of the session at the Program Management Summit sponsored by FCW Events in November.

Lisagor is program chairman for the November 2005 Program Management Summit sponsored by FCW Events. He founded Celerity Works in 1999 to help IT executives accelerate and manage business growth. He lives on Bainbridge Island, Wash., and can be reached at

FCW in Print

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


  • Shutterstock image: looking for code.

    How DOD embraced bug bounties -- and how your agency can, too

    Hack the Pentagon proved to Defense Department officials that outside hackers can be assets, not adversaries.

  • Shutterstock image: cyber defense.

    Why PPD-41 is evolutionary, not revolutionary

    Government cybersecurity officials say the presidential policy directive codifies cyber incident response protocols but doesn't radically change what's been in practice in recent years.

  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    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.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group