E-gov leaders strain to meet deadlines

E-gov leaders strain to meet deadlines

The Office of Management and Budget's strategy report on its 24 highlighted e-government initiatives set the clock ticking for the agencies carrying out the projects.

But the gap between where the projects are now and the milestones they need to reach could be difficult to close.

Many project leaders said the targets listed in the February report are reachable, but a few have expressed concern over whether they will be able to meet the milestones in the timeframe set by the strategy report.

'Having the date helps focus our business processes,' said Charles Havekost, project leader for the Health and Human Services Department's e-Grants initiative. 'We know when the deliverable is due, and we know we have to reach a consensus on what we have to do.'

E-Grants, for instance, has four milestones to reach by October, and Havekost said a key to meeting the deadlines will be working successfully with HHS' agency partners. The biggest obstacle for the project lies in deciding what data elements should be used in the grants process.

Havekost said discussions are moving along with partner agencies, but they are not close to reaching an agreement yet. That decision is due Oct. 1.

Havekost is not alone in having to rely on partner agencies to meet the milestones. Many project leaders said agreeing with partners on which data elements to include or software to use will be the most time-consuming part of the process.

To promote agency discussion and mediate disagreements, OMB hired consultants to help the four e-government portfolio managers, who also will use portfolio management software from ProSight Inc. of Portland, Ore.

'The milestones will go into the portfolio management system, and as agencies develop work plans, the portfolio manager can assess how they are doing,' said Mark Forman, OMB's associate director of IT and e-government.

Bite-sized pieces

John Condon, president of GDSS Inc. of Washington, said milestones are important because they break the project down into 'bite-sized pieces.'

'Short-term goals need to be quick hits,' Condon said at a FOSE 2002 luncheon last month. 'Milestones should be long-term and challenging, but also achievable. By having stretch goals, you are challenging the agency, and that creates an opportunity to galvanize people around the project.'

Scott Cameron, deputy assistant secretary for performance and management at the Interior Department, is leading the agency's Recreation One-Stop and Geospatial One-Stop initiatives. For the Recreation One-Stop, Cameron said he is talking with the private sector as well as state, local and federal entities about how to present the site.

Ed Hugler, deputy assistant secretary for operations in the Labor Department's Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management, leads the newly renamed GovBenefits.gov project. He said the developers should meet the April 30 deadline for releasing the online screening tool for 20 programs and the Sept. 30 goal for expanding it to 100 programs.

Havekost, Cameron and Hugler are confident they will meet their deadlines, but Terry Lutes, IRS project leader for the EZ-Tax Filing initiative, said meeting the second of two milestones due this year will be difficult. Lutes said the project's first milestone'to roll out an Internet site with facts on filing and refunds by April 30'would be met. Setting up a system by Dec. 31 on which Web users can file 1040 forms at no charge could depend on customizing a commercial application, Lutes said.

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