Network key for e-gov managers

Federal managers often achieve increased responsibility and promotions based on their expertise in a particular subject matter, program or operational area. But as they move up the ladder, the management model becomes more complex, involving the management of processes, organizational structures, knowledge and relationships.

As e-government evolves, relationship management may be the most important skill because the Internet has a way of cutting through formal organizational boundaries.

Federal managers are part of a greater whole, helping to guide their "piece" of the organization in order to support the organization's larger mission and goals. Federal managers need an understanding of how agencies are structured. Networking and relationship management are required to get things done quickly and with a high level of expertise.

Another challenge for managers is the complexity of the federal management environment. The federal manager faces about twice the business processes that an industry manager must face. That's because the federal environment is a combination of good industry business practices as well as a number of business practices that only occur

in government, such as Freedom of Information Act requests and the Privacy Act of 1974.

Here is a set of principles for federal managers in the e-government environment:

* Networking. Focus on creating networks and developing networking skills. Support and emphasize the importance of coordination and collaboration across your organization. It is the informal networks created by federal managers that will break down stovepipes.

* Management processes. Spend time understanding the federal management processes in your agency. This includes those outside your immediate organization and, especially if you are involved in e-government, back-room processes. Budgeting, capital planning, enterprise architectures, performance management, process management and program management are especially important to become familiar with.

* Knowledge. Spend time on learning the knowledge behind what drives federal management processes.

* Business and public-services principles. Integrate traditional industry-based business principles and good public-service benefits principles. All federal programs generally are combinations of these two business models, and federal managers must integrate the two in the context of their programs

* Organizational structure. Spend time learning your organization's structure and networking with other managers in order to integrate functional activities into effective business processes aimed at delivering high-quality products and services to the public.

* Centralization and decentralization of decision-making. Favor decentralization unless there is an overwhelming economy of scale that succeeds in coordinating with central infrastructure groups. For instance, most federal agencies could centralize mainframe processing to just a few data centers.

* Process champions. Assign (formally or informally) ownership of business processes to process owners or champions. Process owners/champions should become the focal point for forming cross-organizational teams to address business processes.

Kellett is founder of the federal Web Business Council, co-chairmanof the federal WebMasters Forum and director of GSA's Emerging IT Policies Division.

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