SSA earns high marks for earned value management

The Social Security Administration received generally high marks from its inspector general for the implementation of its earned value management (EVM) system, which measures how well the SSA performs on IT projects.

In an information resources management strategic plan published earlier this year, the SSA said that although it had comprehensive project management processes in place, the agency needed to upgrade them to meet the Office of Management and Budget’s requirement that all agencies use EVM for IT projects.

SSA “has generally implemented an EVM system to manage major IT projects in accordance with OMB” guidance,” the IG found in its audit.

SSA officials completed the agency's EVM policy and system description by the Dec. 31, 2005, deadline set by OMB. They did baseline reviews of 13 of the agency's 14 major IT projects by the March deadline. They have also updated the system used for tracking EVM.

But SSA officials are focusing on more than compliance. They also want EVM to have an impact on their projects. For example, they established an EVM program management office to serve as a focal point within the agency, and they have conducted extensive training for its employees. They are now generating and using some standard EVM reports for project management.

Nevertheless, the IG report also pointed to several areas it said needed improvement.

In particular, it states that the SSA uses estimated labor costs for its project management when actual labor costs are required by the American National Standards Institute standards applied to the OMB’s EVM memo. The agency also must fix weaknesses in the way it collects data on direct labor charges.

Other areas slated for improvement include an agencywide mechanism to track EVM project-related efforts, providing controls for all project baseline changes, and ensuring members of IT project and evaluation teams have adequate programmatic and technical expertise.

SSA management concurred with the IG’s findings and said it would correct the deficient areas.

Overall, the IG wrote, OMB rated SSA’s EVM implementation as “green” on the e-government score card for the first quarter of 2006. Other SSA efforts have resulted in significant progress toward compliance with OMB’s EVM requirements, the IG report states.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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