Execs call for full-time project managers

Major information technology projects should be run by full-time project managers, senior government IT officials said today.

A survey of government technology leaders found that 64 percent of those polled met the criteria of being certified, experienced and full-time project managers, said Ira Hobbs, co-chairman of the CIO Council Workforce and Human Capital for IT Subcommittee and the Agriculture Department's deputy chief information officer. But another qualification — being full-time — was the hardest criterion to meet, since most managers work on a project in addition to daily duties, he said.

"For too long, we have looked at this as a collateral responsibility" rather than a specific class of worker, Hobbs said, speaking at the E-Gov Program Management Summit in Washington, D.C. "Projects fail, by and large, because of the people involved, not because of the money or time. We are dooming ourselves for failure right from the start."

The subcommittee is conveying that message to officials at the Office of Management and Budget, he said. If they want a project done quickly and efficiently, it needs to be run on a full-time basis, he said.

Karen Evans, OMB administrator for e-government and IT, agreed that the success of major projects depends on the people running them. "We have to make sure the workforce can do this, and they are not doing it on a part-time basis," she said.

More than 700 projects — representing $21 billion of the $59.3 billion IT budget for fiscal 2003 — had insufficient management plans that lacked elements such as security plans and cost scheduling, or failed a performance deadline, Evans said. Project managers know how to put the plans together, she said.

Hobbs compared the progress of project managers on the civilian side of government with those at the Defense Department. DOD project managers must be certified, a notion the rest of the government is just now beginning to understand, he said.

"Our colleagues on the defense side got it right, and continue to get it right," he said.

OMB officials have begun to tell agencies that mangers should be certified, but there is no set baseline on what the certification should entail or require for all managers to be certified.

Hobbs said he hopes to see in the very near future a mandate for program manager certification in civilian government. To do that, OMB officials must first examine current programs in place at civilian agencies such as the departments of Energy and Veterans Affairs to determine standards and levels of certification, Evans said.

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