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From: "Inker, Evan"
Subject: [hangout] The work force transforms, creating new challenges for federal ma
Date: Mon, 25 Aug 2003 16:47:11 +0100
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08/18/03; Vol. 22 No. 23
The work force transforms, creating new challenges for federal managers
By Richard W. Walker
The federal government's IT work force is moving from short sleeves and
pocket protectors to button-down shirts and pocket PCs.
What's happening is nothing short of a transformation in government IT
management-the emergence of a new managerial class.
The change is being impelled from the top. White House officials say
managers need skills today that have less to do with technology and more to
do with acuity in business and the ability to lead teams as government
becomes more integrated.
As e-government projects proliferate across government, project managers are
most critically in demand.
Indeed, project management isn't just a job function anymore: It's coming
into its own as a job title. It may even become a new job classification
under the General Schedule.
"We're seeking to make [project management] a class of worker as opposed to
a collateral duty," said Ira Hobbs, deputy CIO at the Agriculture Department
and co-chairman of the CIO Council's IT Work Force and Human Capital
The administration has mandated that agencies have, by September next year,
full-time, commercially certified project managers for each IT project worth
more than $5 million.
That looks like a tall order. In a GCN Management survey of CIOs and other
top-ranking information officials, 65 percent reported critical shortages in
project manager positions. With more than 1,200 major IT projects in the
works across government, many agencies are scrambling to find employees to
groom for project-management certification.
They're also looking at hiring project managers from industry.
The new managerial class faces a raft of complex challenges in other areas.
Managing teleworkers, for example, is a new ball game. How, for instance, do
managers monitor the performance of workers whose only presence in the
office is electronic?
As the use of managed services and outsourcing grows, managing contractors
also has become part of the job for the new class. Handling contract
personnel who work alongside agency employees requires a whole new set of
management skills, observers say.
Amid such tests, managers still face work force shortages, even though the
much-discussed human-capital crisis appears to have eased-at least
"The potential for severe shortages across the spectrum of IT competencies
looms in the future as the result of an aging workforce, limited recruitment
at entry levels and the eventual resurgence of the U.S. economy," Hobbs
warned in a CIO Council report issued earlier this year. "Today's low
turnover rates and plentitude of applicants may be deceptive. The crisis is
merely postponed, not averted."
The present period of relative tranquillity offers a window of opportunity,
providing the time to put into place practices that will enable managers not
only to prevent chronic skill gaps but also to create the highly skilled
work force they need in the future, he said.
"Some folks have put off their retirement," he added. "But the retirement
numbers still continue to bubble up, and no one knows when the bubble is
going to burst. But there are some things we can do make the impact of that
bubble bursting less severe."
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