Top Skills for IT Program Managers

The Office of Personnel Management last week released a competency model for agencies to use in recruiting, hiring, training and retaining IT program and project managers.

In a memo to agency chief human capital officers, OPM Director John Berry noted that the new competency model was based on results from a governmentwide survey initiated in January that sought to identify critical competencies for IT program management work.

"Subject matter experts provided key insights, and employees and supervisors across the government completed surveys to paint a comprehensive picture of IT program management work," Berry wrote.

Creating an official program management career field within federal information technology is one of the reforms included in the White House's 25-point plan to reform federal IT. In June, OPM issued final rules in the Federal Register that did just that. The final standard expanded the definition of program manager to specify "work that involves managing one or more major multi-year IT initiatives of such magnitude that they must be carried out through multiple related IT projects."

The new competency models identify the specific general and technical competencies needed for program managers at each grade level. They also rank program management competencies based on current and future importance. For example, integrity, decision-making, interpersonal skills and teamwork are skills currently needed by IT program managers. In the future, leadership and project management skills will be even more key for such workers.

"Agencies are responsible for conducting job analyses for work responsibilities outside the IT program management function," the guidance states. "Similarly, agencies must determine the applicability of these competencies to positions which do not perform the full range of IT program management work."