Forman: Make managers full-time

Any information technology proj-ect worth more than $5 million should have a dedicated, full-time project manager at its helm to help ensure its success, according to a senior Office of Management and Budget official.

A recent survey of federal project managers conducted by the CIO Council showed that agencies often have project managers, but "we're not willing to devote them full-time to these projects," said Mark Forman, administrator of OMB's Office of E-Government and Information Technology.

Forman said he believes any project valued at more than $5 million justifies the oversight of a full-time government manager who can work with the many functional areas within the agency that are affected by the project.

"We're going to train or hire" them for the job, he said May 1 at the Input MarketView 2003 conference in Falls Church, Va.

Others speaking at the conference supported Forman's goal.

The $5 million threshold makes sense for civilian agencies, because that usually represents a major investment for them, said Diane Frasier, director of the National Institutes of Health's Office of Acquisition Management and Policy. "When an agency is making that kind of investment, they should make sure they have someone dedicated" to working with the users, the financial executives and others within the agency, she said.

But Gregg "Skip" Bailey, assistant director of the FBI's Information Resources Division, questioned how many major investments an agency should manage at one time.

Often, the bigger the investment, the more likely a project is to fail, so agencies should also consider smaller, less complicated projects that could be managed by part-time project managers, he said.

OMB already uses the $5 million threshold as a guide to determine which investments require a business case that outlines their strategy, goals, security measures, performance metrics and management.

Putting in place full-time, qualified project managers is a big challenge, said Mark Luttner, director of the Office of Information Collection in the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Environmental Information.

EPA officials have been talking with Forman and other OMB officials about how to deal with the shortage of qualified project managers and are working with the Agriculture Department to develop a project management certification course.

The FBI is also "in a similar position of trying to grow talent," Bailey said, which is partic- ularly important as the agency begins defining core competencies that must be kept in-house and functions that can be outsourced so people and resources can be applied elsewhere.

Project management has already been identified as a core competency, he said, and the FBI has created a program management office under Trilogy project manager Sherry Higgins to address the issue. Trilogy is the FBI's nearly $600 million modernization program.


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