OMB assigns CIOs new homework

OMB memo on Improving IT Project Planning and Execution

Federal chief information officers received an eight-page “room for improvement” memo last week from the Office of Management and Budget asking them to focus on executing project management plans. The memo compliments them for improvements they have made in planning and justifying federal information technology projects.

The Aug. 4 memo set a number of new tasks and deadlines for federal CIOs, including a Dec. 31 deadline for developing policies for their agencies’ use of earned value management (EVM) systems, a project oversight tool that OMB wants them to use.

The CIO Council will help agencies meet that new requirement by developing an EVM system policy template for IT projects, according to the memo from Karen Evans, administrator for e-government and IT at OMB. The policy template will be ready by October, Evans said.

Among the new requirements for improved IT project execution, OMB will ask agencies to provide independent validation that cost, schedule and performance objectives for all new major IT projects are reasonable before they start projects.

The new requirement also applies to ongoing major IT projects with new software components. According to the memo, agencies should begin independently validating current cost, schedule and performance baselines, and taking corrective actions as necessary, before obligating fiscal 2006 funds. Those independent validations should be completed by March 31, 2006, Evans said.

The memo asks agencies to specify the use of EVM systems when they write contracts and to perform periodic reviews to ensure the systems meet established requirements.

In addition, it asks agencies to help OMB identify high-risk IT projects by Aug. 15. Beginning Sept. 15, CIOs must assess, confirm and document the performance of high-risk projects quarterly using a template that OMB included with the Aug. 4 memo.

The EVM approach could gain increased attention through the work of the Project Management Institute, a nonprofit group that certifies project managers.

Institute officials said the forthcoming edition of their "Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge" will include expanded sections on EVM systems. The updated edition of the guide will have more material on risk management and stronger links between organizational strategy and project management throughout.

The updated guide will be the basis for all certification examinations conducted beginning Sept. 30, PMI officials said.

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