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Why procurement reform is still needed

Apr. 23, 2014 - 01:03PM   |  
By JORDON SIMS   |   Comments
Jordon Sims is director of organization relations and programs for the Project Management Institute (PMI) – www.pmi.org. He leads the PMI global government and corporate relations team, along with the PMI Global Executive Council. He formerly served as an active-duty submarine officer in the U.S. Navy, and he has held numerous positions within the Pentagon, Capitol Hill (appropriations), and Energy Department.
Jordon Sims is director of organization relations and programs for the Project Management Institute (PMI) – www.pmi.org. He leads the PMI global government and corporate relations team, along with the PMI Global Executive Council. He formerly served as an active-duty submarine officer in the U.S. Navy, and he has held numerous positions within the Pentagon, Capitol Hill (appropriations), and Energy Department. (File)

It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “How few there are who have courage enough to own their faults, or resolution enough to mend them.” Now is the time to mend the capacity and capabilities gap seen in the federal government. The singular data point of forward momentum recently seen in healthcare.gov functionality has eroded much of the resolve for reform of government project delivery related to information technology.

Congress must continue driving federal IT reform today, so tomorrow’s projects don’t relegate themselves to crisis management mode coming out of the starting gate. The Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act remains pending in the Senate after passing the House twice, and it awaits either much-deserved standalone attention or a vehicle on which to hitch a ride to becoming law.

A singular and focused improvement such as the federal health exchange ultimately does nothing to ensure that strategic initiatives with significant IT contribution will launch smoothly in the future. Our leaders must know that these types of projects still struggle government-wide in satisfying core aspects of budget, scope and schedule. As a result, FITARA must remain a priority.

FITARA rightfully initiates the positive incremental progress for developing the project and program management capacity of the federal government as it relates to IT. With the strongest tech-sector in the world, it is a glaring disconnect that the US federal government is unable to leverage project, and program management best practices from these same hometown organizations. This long approach hacks at the roots of the problems rather than the limbs, to avoid succumbing to crisis management mode as a first option in driving a project across the finish line when “silver bullet solutions” don’t materialize.

The Project Management Institute’s 2014 report: The Pulse of the Profession – The High Cost of Low Performance, also clearly shows the time to act is now. There are common-sense methods to avoid wasting precious resources in a volatile budget environment. Organizations must align their strategic initiatives with the projects and programs responsible for bringing targeted results and outcomes to fruition. This same research identifies an average of $109 million that is lost per $1 billion invested in projects and programs globally due to poor project performance; the lack of project and program management maturity only amplifies the risk posed to invested resources for the federal government.

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As mentioned, the traditional and fundamental metrics commonly utilized for any government acquisition program, whether it is IT, defense, transportation or business services, are based on budget, scope and schedule. FITARA will develop these common indicators of “stage-one” project and program management competency.

The public sector should not be too hard on itself when facing this necessity for success. Another report in the Pulse of the Profession research series reported that only 52 percent of strategic initiatives globally, in public and private sector organizations, are meeting their original goals and business intent. That means action should be taken now to put the federal government on the right track to close the capability gap for federal IT efforts.

After passing FITARA, a bipartisan and strongly supported effort in Congress, government leaders can further mature and refine project delivery within their respective organizations. By taking this strong first step in bolstering project and program management for federal IT, we can expect progress in the following fundamental categories of people, processes and outcomes in the following manner:

• Eliminating purchasing redundancies across agencies.

• Standardizing practices and training for the IT workforce.

• Developing the necessary ingredients for crucial executive sponsorship through empowered CIOs.

• Empowering the workforce to leverage private sector solutions and, in particular, how to develop coherent requirements based on private sector best practices.

This ultimately results in a systemic ability to realize intended benefits, on budget and on time, while mending the faults we know as they exist today. Unfortunately, these same known competency gaps will continue to surface going forward unless taken head-on now and holistically.

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