Resources and Ideas for Program Managers

Program managers in the federal government face the hefty task of overseeing collections of projects within a team, agency, or department. And juggling many tasks – while they may sometimes be intertwined – requires that you have some extra tricks up your sleeve, especially to achieve your program-specific goals.

As the departmental agendas brought in by new leadership continue to be outlined and implemented, this is the perfect time to learn about a few new tools to add to your program manager arsenal. Below, you’ll find ideas and resources (complete with links that provide a deeper dive) to help you optimize your role in your organization.

  1. Learn about Agile (and apply it!): What is Agile? Briefly, it’s a method of managing your program or project activities in a flexible and interactive manner, and it’s embraced by several federal agencies. The TechFAR handbook, for example, outlines why government would benefit from adopting Agile for IT program management, including a reduction of risk, increased flexibility, and improvement in investment and budget management. GAO has even identified practices for the best application of Agile in IT projects. Here are a few resources to get you thinking Agile:
  2. Understand benefits realization: Benefits realization management is a method through which the time and resources invested in your program or projects are managed in a way that results in the desired outcomes being achieved. The practice has been growing in popularity since the UK government adopted it 2003.
  3. Research the Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act and determine how it might impact you: In December, the Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act became law. The intent of the legislation is to promote best practices and greater accountability in program and project management across the federal government by creating a formal job series for program managers, developing a standards-based program management policy, encouraging knowledge sharing by creating an interagency council on program management, and designating Program Management Improvement Officer in federal agencies to help enhance the role of program managers. You can read more about how it might impact your work here:
  4. Consider certifications: If you’d like to signify your advanced experience in the program management field, consider a professional designation by completing one of these certification programs:
  5. Learn how to frame your success: As a program manager, you need to set realistic expectations based on a complete picture of the work in front of you and the resources you have to put your project on the path to success. Here’s one of the most robust resources out there to help you:
  6. Connect with other program managers and find the resources you need: There are a wealth of websites out there that can help you connect with or read about other program managers and learn from their successes and failures.

Are you a program manager? What has been most important thus far to ensuring success within the areas you oversee?

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