Dec 31 2009

Has Your Agency Got Game?

Photo: Mark Battrell

The more information technology becomes entwined in the missions of the government's agencies, the more program chiefs and CIOs find themselves rethinking the skills that their staffs need.

In some instances, that leads to blending IT smarts with other skills crucial to accomplishing a program's mission. It requires looking at the members of your staff much like a baseball team and determining bench strength. Do the talents and skills add up to a project or IT team that can consistently hit the ball out of the park, or do you just have warning-track power?

Tough Task

It's not easy to figure out the answers to such questions. But the Bush administration expects you to. In the coming weeks, agencies governmentwide will be sending reports to the Office of Management and Budget detailing their IT skill needs and, more specifically, how they will close their skill gaps.

To help agencies determine where their strengths and weaknesses lie, the Office of Personnel Management and the CIO Council created the IT Workforce Capability Assessment. The assessment is an annual survey that queries federal systems workers about their IT know-how. To read up on how agencies are using the information gleaned from the assessment to help set human capital strategies, flip to "People Power".

A few years back, when the Secret Service realized that a major challenge for its agents would be deterring cyberthreats, it set a strategy for creating supercops—agents with a mix of bleeding-edge technical smarts and beat-cop insightfulness. And the approach is paying off, as "Cybercops" details.

"They take the computer geek and the super investigator and create an agent who has unbelievable criminal investigative skills," says Gerry Cavis, a former Secret Service agent who served on the security team of President Bush and before that President Clinton.

Like other agencies, the Defense Department faces the constant challenge of making sure its workers are IT savvy, but the sheer size of the department and the span of its programs and missions magnify that effort many times over.

In the "CIO Interview," Defense's Linton Wells II speaks about the issues of workforce strength and the transforming power of IT to help meet missions. But how do you ensure that the programs you oversee succeed in achieving their full potential when they number in the thousands? Here, Wells reveals the tricks that work for him at DOD.

Game Face

The government has gotten wise to project management as a skill set. In his column, "The Business of IT," Paul Wohlleben lauds the training and certification programs the government has crafted for its IT project managers.

But more needs to be done to assure that the government can take the reins of complex IT initiatives that serve cross-disciplinary needs and multiple agencies.

He reveals the missing link in the management chain—an area that the government should devote training to—here.

What's abundantly clear is that keeping the skills it needs at the ready is a never-ending job for the government. But recent efforts by agencies to assess their skills, identify needs and set new human resources strategies will make that job manageable.

Lee Copeland

Editor in Chief