USDA analyzes IT projects with earned-value methodology

USDA's Marilyn Holland at the IRMCO conference in Cambridge, Md.

Henrik G. de Gyor

CAMBRIDGE, Md.?The Agriculture Department is taking a closer look at its 65 major IT investments.

Through a pilot, agency officials are using the Earned Value Management criteria to better manage their IT portfolio, said Marilyn Holland, Agriculture's chief of the CIO office's Program Planning and Management division.

"We hope this lets us know which investments are closest to meeting their cost, schedule and performance goals," Holland said yesterday during a panel discussion on developing IT business cases at the Interagency Resources Management Conference.

EVM is a technique that lets agencies plan, budget and schedule requirements in timed phases. It lets managers set baselines to measure cost and schedule progress.

Agriculture hired Metier Ltd. of Washington to provide portfolio management software called Worklenz, Holland said.

"We have tailored the tool, developed our taxonomy and done most of the other setup work to use the software," Holland said. "By the time the fiscal 2006 process is here, we should have evaluated the pilot to see how it helped us manage our IT investments."

Holland added she hopes the agency eventually will use EVM on USDA's entire 375-project portfolio.

Agriculture officials also are focusing on project management to improve their business cases, Holland said. The department runs a five-week course to train project managers and prepare them for certification from the Project Management Institute Inc. of Newtown Square, Pa.

USDA managers also developed a standard set of project plan templates, she said.

"The templates give project managers a basic set of IT elements such as security, records management and risk analysis that the Office of Management and Budget expects to be in there," Holland said.

Jason Miller writes for Government Computer News

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