OMB asks agencies to practice project management discipline

Earned value management (EVM) is an unfamiliar discipline to many federal project managers, but it won’t be a mystery much longer. Federals agencies have until Dec. 31 to create policies for using EVM to reduce the inherent risk in large information technology projects.

All federal agencies should be using EVM as businesses have been doing for years, said Tim Young, associate administrator for e-government and IT in the Office of Management and Budget. That office set the Dec. 31 deadline.

Speaking today at an industry breakfast seminar in Washington, D.C., Young said federal agencies will get more value out of a proposed $65 billion budget for IT for fiscal 2006 if they use EVM as one of their project management tools.

Unlike other federal agencies, the Defense Department is familiar with EVM, having used it for years to control spending and deadlines for large aircraft carrier projects, Young said. The Office of Personnel Management began using EVM in September to help project leaders who are managing five e-government projects and a governmentwide human resources project.

Norman Enger, director of the human resources line of business at OPM, testified to the difficulty and value of using EVM to continually assess whether a project is “on time, within budget and in scope.” The difficulty, he said, comes in reducing every inch of progress to a dollar value.

The value of EVM is that it lets managers make better decisions and avoid undue costs or project failures, Enger said. Managers can foresee trouble and take corrective action, rather than suddenly realize, “I’m way over budget for this project," he said.

Enger added as a caveat, however, that using EVM properly puts a considerable burden on project management team members to plan and schedule projects – skills often in short supply in federal agencies.

A representative of Primavera Systems, a company that sells EVM software cautioned seminar attendees that mastering EVM requires a significant commitment of time and resources. Joel Capperella, the company's market manager, said EVM has great value, but that agencies could face significant obstacles in achieving that value.

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