Design firms in need of project management training

32% of design and environmental firm leaders and HR managers report that project management training is their firms' biggest training need according to the latest By the Numbers poll, a monthly survey featured in The Zweig HR Letter. 19% of respondents point to marketing and business development and 16% say leadership training is their firms' biggest training need. Other trends revealed by the survey include firms increasing spending on leadership training and drawing on their resourcefulness to provide inexpensive training through existing staff and new media such as webinars and other online training programs.

"The entire project team needs to keep learning and improving regardless of what the economy is doing," says Christine Brack, PMP, a principal with ZweigWhite and head of the firm's in-house training programs. "Clients aren't reducing their expectations for excellent work and project leadership in this downturn. In fact, they're demanding more, since a greater number of firms are hungry for their business. In this environment, project managers are under close scrutiny, with clients watching every move and every penny. When professional service firms cut back on training, they're taking risks with client retention and satisfaction, not to mention signaling that the project team isn't worth the investment."

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VA delay brings new project management scheme

The Veterans Affairs Department has tabled development work—and as much spending as possible—on 45 information technology projects, most of which involve healthcare IT systems. During the hiatus, VA brass will subject the projects to internal review and the strictures of a newly adopted IT project management scheme.

The IT program reviews come in the wake of a report, released in late May by the VA's inspector general's office, that chastised the department for its lack of IT management rigor. It also comes as a deadline looms for the VA to achieve its goal of making its clinical IT systems "interoperable" with those of the Defense Department's Military Health System.



Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology Roger Baker made the joint announcement about the forced delays July 17.




Of the 300 IT projects under way at the VA, the 45 now on hold are at least one year behind schedule or more than 10% over budget, although "there tends to be a pretty good overlap on both of those," according to Baker.

The targeted 45 were a logical place to start implementing what Baker calls a "program management accountability system," or PMAS, which is based on timetables, milestones and the incremental development and release of software and other deliverables. All 300 IT projects at the VA eventually will be placed under the PMAS, but for now, until the stop-work orders are lifted, no further development on the targeted projects will occur, and spending will be "minimized," the VA announcement said. For most of those projects, the holds will amount to "a temporary halt" giving their project managers time to replan and adapt to the new oversight and reporting system, Baker said. "We're expecting most projects to be restarted in the Oct. 1 time frame or so," he said.