OMB, CIO Council define project manager qualifications

Agencies must have a plan by Friday to make sure every project manager is qualified based on the CIO Council guidance released last week.

In a July 21 memo to CIOs, Karen Evans, Office of Management and Budget administrator for e-government and IT, said plans should outline agencies' approach, milestones and schedule for complying with the guidance.

The memo follows earlier OMB guidance requiring agencies by Sept. 30 to ensure all major projects have qualified project managers.

'This is a great first step for agencies to recognize the importance of project management in the IT field,' said Will Brimberry, acting chairman of the CIO Council's project management working group. 'This allows agencies to have a structure to assign project managers to projects and to have a reason to train them.'

The CIO Council defined three project manager levels that correspond to project risk.

For instance, a level 1 project manager is required to have at least one year of successful previous experience as well as an understanding of project management and IT-project management competencies. Level 2 builds on level 1 competencies, but asks for a more advanced knowledge of IT-project management skills to go along with 2 to 4 years of experience.

Finally, level 3 builds on level 2 and requires the project manager to have developed a systems perspective delineated in Clinger-Cohen core competencies, including lifecycle management, capital planning and investment control, mission alignment and several other skills.

For the fiscal 2006 budget submission due in September, agencies also must identify the project management level required for each project and whether the assigned project manager is qualified at that level, Evans said.

This requirement caused some concern among agencies, but OMB alleviated any problems by compromising on the obligation.

In the memo, OMB will let agencies without qualified project managers waive the requirement for the time being, as long as they have an individual personnel development plan to qualify the project manager, Brimberry said.

Some CIOs balked at OMB's consideration of letting the CIO waive the need for a full-time project manager (GCN June 7 story).

'Qualified project managers are our first line of defense against the cost overruns, schedule slips and poor performance that threatens agencies' ability to deliver efficient and effective services to citizens,' Evans said.

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