E-gov experts discuss effective IT project management

Part 1:Mark Forman and Karen Evans, former e-government administrators, OMB

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With project management, bigger is not always better.

That’s the advice of former OMB e-government administrators Karen Evans and Mark Forman, who joined In Depth with Francis Rose to discuss effective IT project management.

Breaking up a large project into measurable chunks will allow agencies to realize success, Evans said.

“You build on that small success and it has a cascading effect going forward,” she said.

Forman said a standard timeline to see project results is six months, but the timing depends on an agency’s goals.

Typically for IT projects, it takes one month to build the project, one month to test it and one month to fix and deploy it, Forman said.

“It’s an incremental transformation,” he said.

The IT project may be completed in this time frame, but the results of that project might take longer to realize. Evans pointed out that IT projects can become business transformation projects.

“Some IT projects only took 18 months but took three to four years because of business transformation that had to happen in order to get all the policies aligned,” Evans said.

Shorter-term projects can also better align with the cycle of leadership changes, which Forman said typically is 18 to 24 months for an assistant secretary or even a secretary.

“This notion of chunking (into small projects) has to go with a leadership commitment,” Forman said.

Common mistakes in project management
Often managers do not talk to the people who will be most impacted by the project.

“The common theme that I’ve seen in government is people in the field have really good ideas of how to change the business processes to improve the quality of government,” Forman said.

The problem, though, is “sometimes people in headquarters don’t want them to have that much power,” he said.

There must be the right balance between empowering the field and maintaining control, Forman said.

Government must also start looking outside of their individual branch, bureau or agency to find the right people to work on the project, Forman said.

Steps for better collaboration in government

In his article in Federal Computer Week, Forman offers four steps agencies can take to better use social networking tools to solve problems.

“The internet lowers the cost of finding and interacting with other folks, so there are some applications out there to create community clouds,” Forman said. But, he added, “Someone has to shepherd that.”

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