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Posted by on Sep 23, 2014

Nextgov Prime 2014 Recap: What Will Federal Project Management Look Like in 2020?

Steve Benjamin NexGov_450px

Panel: Advancing Procurement at the Pace of
Technological Change

Host:Steve Benjamin, Management Concepts
Panelists: Jaymie Durnan, DoD; David McClure, GSA;
Joanne Woytek, NASA

Along with several of my Management Concepts colleagues, I recently participated in Nextgov Prime 2014, a two-day event designed, implemented, and attended by Federal leaders and Nextgov’s Fed tech-focused staff. This year’s theme was Gov_2020: Embracing the Art of the Possible.

Through breakout sessions, keynote addresses, and panels, participants sought to discuss and answer critical questions relevant to current and future leaders, including:

  • What does government look like in 2020?
  • How can technology reshape the way government does business?
  • How will the ways in which you accomplish your mission change?

Management Concepts hosted two particularly relevant panels to those who follow Federal project management and procurement, titled Advancing Procurement at the Pace of Technological Change: Why Government Will (or Won’t) Fix Procurement and Advancing Procurement at the Pace of Technological Change: How the Government Will Buy Future Technologies.

With a focus on various impact areas such as organizing teams, working smarter, and managing the risks of electronic privacy, a lot of ground was covered in these sessions, but there were a few key concepts that became recurring themes in the discussion.

Agile: While Agile as a buzzword and the “concept du jour” has passed its peak “hype cycle,” Agile practices (iterative and incremental delivery, close involvement of the customer during the development process, working in Sprints, etc.) remain highly relevant to successful Federal program management.

Big Data: The same can be said for “big data,” a phrase at which many scoff. But there is no doubt that the need for better, more effective tools and up-skilling of personnel is necessary in order to get value out of data. This is a trend that will continue to grow exponentially. (Oh, and by the way, if you think your personal data is secure, think again. Be proactive: Change your password.)

Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR): If you’re waiting for changes to the FAR before moving ahead with iterative development, be prepared to wait for a long time. These changes won’t be coming anytime soon. Using an Agile development process to acquire products and develop services is actually quite doable under the FAR. The key is to get creative, and expect and handle pushback from stakeholders who have “never done it this way before.” Change is hard, but worth it.

IT Projects and Cybersecurity: A discussion surrounding IT project implementation is inextricably linked to the topic of cybersecurity — and that’s a good thing. Considering the cyber issues at the onset of a project will prove to be less expensive and easier to navigate than adding it later in the process, or dealing with inadequate protection and picking up the pieces after the fallout.

At Nextgov Prime2014, it was evident that continued focus and discussion surrounding these issues will yield the best practices and tools needed for successful Federal project management in the future. What can we do today to ensure that we will succeed tomorrow?

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