When the Program Management Improvement Accountability Act (PMIAA) of 2015 was first drafted, not many people were aware of its provisions. Former President Barack Obama signed it into a law on December 14, 2016. The new law makes it mandatory for executive agencies of the U.S. Federal government to follow standard best practices in project management.

While a few people paid attention to its implications in the beginning, over time, everyone in the program, project, and portfolio management industries realized the potential of this legislation.

This article will explain the need for enacting PMIAA, and the ways it will affect the global project management landscape.

#1 What was the need for enacting PMIAA?

One of the key reasons for introducing PMIAA was to increase the accountability and transparency of government departments and bring them in line with the best practices of the private sector.

This was influenced by the Project Management Institute's Pulse of the Profession report, which uncovered the fact that only 64 percent of government strategic initiatives meet their goals, and that government entities waste $101 million for every $1 billion spent. The report showed, however, that much of this waste could be eliminated if the government followed industry best practices in project and program management.

Another possible reason is that the PMIAA provides a benchmark for other organizations to follow, including private companies, state governments, and even other countries.

The British government already has standards for project management written into law, and now that the United States has joined the club, it sends a strong signal to governments around the world that they should enact laws that increase government accountability.

#2 How can better project management standards deliver value?

In 2015, the Government Accountability Office released a report on its list of high-risk projects. The report found challenges in a majority of the programs on the 32 items list. The report highlighted key areas for improvement, including managing certain projects at the U.S. Department of Defense, managing risks and improving healthcare at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the management of oil and gas revenues. The report concluded that there was an urgent need for better project management standards to improve efficiency across government agencies.

#3 Who is responsible for ensuring that PMIAA is implemented?

There are four main departments responsible for the implementation, with the Office of Management and Budget at the head. A newly-formed Project Management Policy Council will work with two other departments—the Office of Personnel Management and the Government Accountability Office—to collect data about the implementation process across 14 federal Executive Agencies.

These agencies are the Executive Office of the President and the Departments of Commerce, Agriculture, Education, Health and Human Services, Energy, Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, Interior, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, State, Treasury, and Transportation.

In sum, the Office of Budget and Management, which unofficially was always the largest project portfolio management office in the world, now officially has to follow industry standards when determining the effectiveness of its constituent agencies.

#4 What is the timeline for the implementation of project management standards?

The timeline to be followed under the Program Management Improvement Accountability Act is:

  • By Dec 2017 the program management standards have to be sent to the Executive Agencies.  

  • No later than 90 days after the standards have been sent, all federal executive agencies must create regulations necessary to implement the standards.

  • No later than 180 days after the standards are published, procedures that map out skills, competencies, and career paths for program and project managers should be established within all federal agencies.

  • By Dec 2017 all federal agencies should submit a report to the Program Management Policy council, detailing how they're going to improve program management practices in their agencies.

  • By Dec 2020 the Government Accountability Office must provide a report that investigates the success of all project management standards, the 5-year strategic plan, the Program Management Improvement Officers, and the Program Management Policy Council.

#5 What does PMIAA mean for individual project managers and government vendors?

The PMIAA specifically requires the Office of Budget and Management to interact with industry leaders to identify best practices in project management. Apart from encouraging greater public-private partnership, this move will result in more certified PMPs being brought into government, and will increase the overall value of Project Management certifications in both the United States government and private sector.

Vendors to executive agencies of the federal government should ensure that their personnel have project management certifications as PMIAA requires executive agencies to work with vendors who follow industry best practices in project management.

So, if you've been taking your time in getting or renewing a project management certification, get started now, as the increased demand for project managers is likely to drive up salary figures!

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