Roberts: Successful IT management relies on right people in right jobs

Thursday - 11/4/2010, 6:02pm EDT

Raymond Roberts, CEO, Citizant

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You already know OMB is watching how you're managing your agency's projects closer than ever, looking to kill projects that aren't working -- or aren't working right. It's all part of the "more with less" pressure you're dealing with.

There are a number of techniques for fixing those wayward projects, but all of them depend on having the right people doing the right jobs, said Raymond Roberts, CEO of Citizant, who joined host Francis Rose in the Industry Chatter series.

The federal government faces a growing generation gap in its workforce. With IT projects, agency veterans are the program managers and younger employees are overseeing the technical side. Agencies, therefore, are "relying on vendors to bridge some of that gap," Roberts said.

Vendors like Citizant interpret IT project requirements to meet federal standards. However, project leaders must still maintain oversight so that mission goals are met.

"You can build a system that's perfectly 508 compliant that doesn't do anything," Roberts said.

Ideally, if all goes well, the project management becomes "a big partnership," Roberts said.

The overall success of a project depends less on the management model rather than the people doing the management. Strong leaders can inspire their team, offer direction and take the time to monitor the project to "make sure the performance goes well," Roberts said.

Managers should think of IT projects as research and development projects: "Whatever system you're building, it's probably never been built before," he said.

Failure is part of the process, and it's not exclusive to government. Commercial IT projects fail just as much but are not publicized, Roberts said.

Agency leaders must "have a tremendous amount of vision and foresight and patience to get through the cycles of errors that are obviously going to creep up, and manage those errors," Roberts said.