How Other Professional Certifications Play into the DoD FM Certification Requirements

CalculatorThe DoD Financial Management (FM) Certification is different than other certifications you may be familiar with because it is course-based rather than test-based. It is also based on established DoD FM and leadership competencies. Competencies are defined knowledge and behaviors that the DoD wants to see exhibited by its FM workforce. In other words, to get the job done, the DoD FM workforce has to know certain things and be able to act in certain ways.  The DoD FM Certification requires training on those needed competencies.

What does this mean for you?
There are courses created by DoD, as well as commercial offerings, that have been mapped to the FM competencies and count toward your certification. For example, an eight hour course will have been mapped to eight hours of training at one or more of the DoD FM Competencies. You will need to collect these hours of training to meet the certification requirements. There is no test you will have to pass to achieve Level 1, 2, or 3 – only specific courses that map to and cover all of the competencies required for your job classification. Experience requirements and Continuing Education and Training (CET) are also required to meet and maintain your certification, but you will not have to cram for a final exam every two years!

You may be wondering if other certifications such as Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Defense Financial Manager (CDFM), or Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM) will count towards your certification.  The DoD FM Certification program seems to be encouraging formal education (i.e., college degrees) and FM test-based certifications such as those mentioned above, but the certifications do not directly overlap. For each course you have taken for a separate test-based certification, you will need to check FM myLearn to see if the classes you completed count towards your new certification.

IT Project Management: Critical to the Success of Your Projects

PM pyramidIn October 2013, Computerworld published an article that stated the “success rate for large, multi-million dollar commercial and government IT projects is very low.” The article quoted data from the Standish Group showing that only 6.4 percent of large IT projects from 2003–2012 were successful.

Why is that the case?

Managing IT projects has many challenges. A significant, contributing factor is that information is an invisible commodity. For example, when you contrast IT with construction of a new high-rise building, every component in construction can be seen and touched—every piling, girder, air handler, panel, door, and window. Generally, a common language and terminology is used throughout the construction. This is not the case with IT projects.

On the other hand, in IT projects, until we see the results in prototype or final deliverable status, we must manage a set of invisible actions to produce invisible procedures which handle invisible information for the benefit of the frequently-invisible end-user. And perhaps more with IT than any other project management type, we must depend on individuals who make up the team, many of whom are using different programming languages and codes, to apply their skills toward the end result before we can see the results of their work.

So what can be done?

The IT workforce is now more technically competent than ever before and it is now easier to build complex, useful, and engaging applications. Yet, despite the great advances in technology and IT governance, the Federal IT workforce are often lacking in project management skills such as leadership, communication, understanding of contracts, and the balance of schedule and cost.

Only when these skills and competencies are mastered can Federal IT project participants ensure project success. Luckily, the governance and management of IT projects within the Federal sector have also greatly improved. Over the last 25 years, project management of IT has evolved into a valuable discipline and generally accepted principles of project management have emerged. Additionally, with the establishment of new roles and the formalization of requirements for certification, responsibilities and workforce training standards are now clear and well defined.

Download Management Concepts new whitepaper, Managing the Invisible: How Can We Improve the Odds of Successful IT Projects?, to learn more about how to improve the odds of running a successful IT project.

Project Managers, Do You Have the Symptoms of Risk Myopia?

Risk Dr“Risk myopia” occurs when individuals or groups are short-sighted about risk, unable to take in the full risk picture, which leads them to focus exclusively on short-term risks or those within a limited perspective.


The risk landscape is broad, covering a wide range of uncertainties that could affect our ability to achieve our objectives. It stretches into the far distant future, over the horizon and beyond our sight. We need to understand and manage any and every uncertainty that matters, including those that originate far away.

Yet organizations and their project teams tend to focus largely on those risks that are closest to them, as a result of two subconscious influences: proximity (closeness in time or space) and propinquity (closeness to our personal interests). Where this natural close-up focus becomes limiting — excluding visibility of risks that are further off and preventing us from paying proper attention to them — we are likely to be suffering from risk myopia. A number of symptoms indicate short-sightedness in risk vision.

Concentration on risk detail at expense of big picture
Risk-myopic project teams and organizations tend to focus on the detail of individual risks and fail to see the bigger picture. This perspective is often reflected in the content of their risk registers, where specific risks are described in minute detail, covering every aspect, exploring a range of potential causes, considering many characteristics, and listing every possible impact on the project. While this detailed close-up focus may indeed prove useful to support the management of each particular risk, the danger is that so much time and effort are spent looking at the risks that have been identified that no attention is directed more widely to take in the bigger picture and recognize risks that are not included in the risk register.

Emphasis on short-term tactical risks rather than long-term strategic risks
Another characteristic of risk myopia is excessive concentration on risks that are likely to occur in the near future that would have an impact on tactical execution. Again, these risks are surely important, and it is perhaps right to emphasize them above other risks because their proximity in time might call for urgency in response planning; certainly, their ability to influence and inform short-term tactics needs to be taken seriously. But such risks must not be emphasized to the point where other important risks are excluded.

In addition to short-term risks, we need to look for and record risks that are further off in time. First, faraway risks are getting closer with every passing day, and some are accelerating toward us while we fail to take appropriate action; second, it may be more effective to act early, before such risks get too close, rather than wait for them to enter our short-term field of vision.

Focus on limited risk types
Another result of risk myopia that is similar to the short-term perspective is a focus on only a limited number of risk types. It is most common for us to consider risks in areas with which we are most familiar. For example, engineers tend to see lots of technical risks but are less aware of commercial or external risks. Procurement specialists see contractual risks clearly but might be blind to risks arising from internal sources within the organization. We tend to look for risks in familiar places and not to step outside our comfort zones to see what might be lurking there.

Concern for immediate impact
When multiple phases of a project or business enterprise are spread over a period of time, the risk-myopic will tend to be interested mainly in risks that might affect the current phase, ignoring the potential effect of risks on the overall goals or final outcome. This symptom is indicated by a tendency to operate the risk process in a staged or phased manner known as “rolling-wave risk management.”

Of course, the whole idea of risk management is to be proactive in addressing uncertainties that matter, seeking to identify and influence risks before they arise so that we have maximum thinking space to prepare and position ourselves to deal with each in a timely manner.

Seeing risks but not risk
The important difference between risks and risk is best illustrated by asking the question “How risky is your project?” The risk register lists all identified risks, prioritized for attention and action, with responses and owners allocated to each. But a list of risks cannot answer the “How risky?” question. A project’s overall risk exposure is very different from the individual risks that need to be managed.

Excerpted with permission from The Risk Doctor’s Cures for Common Risk Ailments by David Hillson. © 2014 by Management Concepts Inc. All rights reserved.

This Week in Grants News

budget“This Week in Grants News” is a resource Management Concepts provides to keep you informed of important grants-related news from the week.

  • Election Uncertainty Complicates Budget Decisions
    Congress has not passed a single appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2015, and Congressional leaders are expected to introduce a continuing resolution next month to fund government operations.  Some Republican members, hopeful that their party will retake the Senate in November, are pushing for a CR that would last until January. This could enable the party to have complete control of the process when the CR expires.  Democrats, recognizing the growing likelihood of losing the Senate, are pushing for a December expiration date. Watch for the budget battles to continue up until the start of the new fiscal year on October 1. Read the article here.
  • Being an IG
    The new DHS IG spoke to the Washington Post about his job, priorities, and office functions. Read the interview here.
  • Metro Pays Feds $4.2M Over Alleged Procurement Violation
    Metro agreed to repay the Federal government more than $4 million. The government found that Metro improperly awarded a sole source contract without proper documentation or competition.  Read more here.
  • Transparency Group Accuses a Dozen Agencies of Stonewalling FOIA Requests
    A watchdog organization has filed a suit against a number of agencies. The suit alleges the agencies have withheld information regarding meetings and communications with the White House. Read more here.

Workforce Planning Is Key to a High-Performing Future Agency

workforce-planningThe Federal Government’s most valued resource is its people. At a time when the Government faces what the GAO describes as a “period of profound transition,” management of human resources within the Government has become a key driver of not only achieving mission today but also of positioning agencies to be ready to achieve missions in the future.

Despite advances in human capital management in the Federal Government, strategic human capital management has been designated by the GAO as government-wide high-risk area since 2001. Last year the GAO added “Human resources specialist” to its list of “Mission Critical Occupations.”  Despite this, however, human capital management often begins after the organization-wide strategic planning takes place, which prevents using human capital information to inform the overall strategic plan. Moreover, it inhibits the organization’s most powerful tool in optimizing the workforce — and in optimizing the organization: workforce planning.

Why is workforce planning HR’s most powerful tool? The GAO has identified two benefits of effective workforce planning:

  1. Aligning an organization’s human capital program with its current and emerging mission and programmatic goals; and
  2. Developing long-term strategies for acquiring, developing, and retaining staff to achieve programmatic goals.

Workforce planning sets the direction and goals for the entire human capital lifecycle. From recruiting to employee development, workforce planning is the unifying keystone. Workforce planning is the bridge between the current state and the desired future state. It is nearly impossible to radically change your current workforce regardless of the radical changes in the environment. It is possible, however, to have a radically different workforce in the future without disrupting the efficacy of the current workforce. The critical element is understanding what the future need will be and aligning the need with what the workforce will be able to do at each point in time through workforce planning.

A frequent frustration of workforce planning efforts is that organizational leaders often have little insight into what changes will need to take place for the workforce to meet their strategic goals. It’s very common to see the pace of change overestimated and the level of effort underestimated. The root cause for this problem is that HR is often brought to the table after the decision has been made rather than being part of the decision itself.

GAO has also identified five key principles that strategic workforce planning should address irrespective of what is being done, which you can reference here. The GAO does emphasize that top management, employees, and other stakeholders should be involved in development and implementation of the workforce plan. The GAO does not call out, however, the importance of HR having a seat at the table when the organization sets its overall vision and goals instead of just setting the strategic direction of the workforce after the organizational strategy has already been determined.

When involved in overall agency-wide strategic planning, HR can help line leaders to understand the amount of time and level of investment required for goals to be achieved. From gauging how long it will take to have a workforce with a new skill to understanding how long it takes to stand up a fully effective new function, HR can help the organization to set goals that are achievable within budget and within the necessary timeline. It’s wonderful to have the line leaders’ involvement in the workforce plan. It would be far more effective, however, to also have HR at the forefront of agency-wide strategic planning.