In late 2016, Congress passed the Program Management Improvement Accountability Act. The intent of the legislation is, well, to improve how governments manage programs and hold them accountable for results. (Shouldn't government be accountable for results already to, I don't know, the American taxpayer? But I digress.) The legislation requires the Office of Management and Budget to:
Adopt government-wide standards for program management
Engage with the private sector to understand best practices
Conduct annual agency portfolio reviews
Establish a five-year strategic plan for program management.
Interestingly, DoD is exempt from these provisions "to the extent that they are substantially similar to" existing DoD policies related to program management. Every other agency that has a CFO must appoint a Program Management Improvement Officer (presumably, this will become the acronym PMIO). OPM also has to create a new job series (or update an existing one) that is specific to program and project management.
It is a welcome development for the federal government to manage its projects according to project management best practices. This should already be happening, so it is nice to see that the legislation codifies this requirement. As I've pointed out in my previous post on PMOs, I believe that private sector organizations would also benefit from formalizing a PMO function and job series for their PMs. The fact that the federal government is now requiring this training in-house is an excellent sign. How does an organization expect its project managers to grow and develop if it fails to articulate the value of those skills and the career trajectory in which those skills can be used?
I do have a few concerns with the Act, however, that depend upon how it is implemented:
If the PMIO job is jettisoned to a collateral duty, it could compromise the integrity of the program. In an era of shrinking budgets and given the hiring freeze now in place, this seems like an increasingly likely possibility. The federal government may need to continue to rely on contracted support to ensure that these functions are fulfilled. At minimum in the short term, while the government is codifying these best practices, it will need to consult with industry experts (read: outside consultants) to verify its approach.
Best practices are just that, best practices. It is troubling that DoD may be exempt from the standards to which the rest of the federal government is subject. The OMB's Program Management Policy Council (another requirement of the legislation) should take care to validate that DoD policies are in line with those used elsewhere in the federal government, to the extent possible.
Finally, validate that the best practices adopted are, in fact, the best. PMI obviously had a heavy hand in promulgating this legislation, and they have done a good job of integrating agile practices into their latest PMBOK and certification curriculum. The government should ensure that both agile and waterfall methodologies are considered as part of its best practices curricula.