levels of service may become the expected norm after funding is exhausted.

Integrated Management Lends ARRA Projects Credibility

Many savvy SLGs also have established dedicated offices to manage the ARRA administration process. And more states would be wise to establish an integrated project team (IPT) approach to their recovery projects and programs. In doing so, projects will sustain a far better chance of meeting the outlined requirements on time and within budget.

An IPT ensures that key stakeholders -- those involved from the requirements development stage through the acquisition process, and throughout the entire project life cycle -- are engaged and committed to the project's outcomes. In addition, changes in project scope and schedule can be more efficiently managed in an IPT. Individual roles of the IPT members can also be developed to address risk, reporting and other functions in a more disciplined manner. Ultimately discipline is what's needed to fully comply with ARRA transparency and accountability standards.

In some cases, a group of experts -- called "tiger teams" -- may be assembled to facilitate rapid completion of specific project stages. Originally a military reference for a team of commandos, the term has a somewhat different meaning in the civilian world. Its role in the nonmilitary work environment can vary, along with the effectiveness and efficiency of its use.

For instance, a tiger team cannot wave a magic wand and complete the entire acquisition and project life cycle for a major project in only a few days; nor can they be responsible for fixing "broken" projects. Let's face it: Processes that were dysfunctional before adding stimulus funds are still dysfunctional. Instead, the tiger team might be called upon to complete a specific stage in the process. For example, a team of internal and external experts could be created to help write the statement of work after project requirements have been completely analyzed and documented.

As tempting as it may be to "bring in the hired guns," there are benefits to using internal IPTs to manage ARRA-funded projects. In the long run, for instance, internal IPTs have a vested interest in each phase's outcome -- from requirements conception to project completion. ARRA projects also can provide beneficial development opportunities for internal team members. And so, project leads who are planning the implementation of recovery projects will want to consider on a case-by-case basis whether or not the use of internal IPTs is the most efficient method, given the project's variables.

Perhaps the most effective approach to managing an ARRA project is to combine the IPT effort with the use of existing contract vehicles. SLGs have access to many existing federal and state contracts that fulfill most needs. However, if the team decides that an alternate procurement strategy is warranted, a performance-based contract is the recommended vehicle. It should be awarded to the contractor that incorporates performance metrics and milestones in best alignment with the project's work breakdown structure. In addition, the contract should include reporting standards and milestones that correlate with the ARRA requirements. Bear in mind that the most widely accepted reporting process to measure project performance is earned value management.

Regardless of the variables, in order for any IPT to function properly, it's essential to train team members and extended supporting members in the best practices of program and project management. Here's a key to putting this all in perspective: If you've ever traveled to a foreign country where you don't fluently speak or understand the local language, you've probably found that speaking slower or louder in your own language isn't an effective way to get your point across (i.e., It's amusing to the listener, but not effective). Similarly the most efficient and effective method of managing projects is to ensure that all stakeholders speak the same language -- literally and

Bill Damaré  |  Contributing Writer
Bill Damaré is regional vice president of government markets for ESI International, a provider of project management and contract management courses and training. He has more than 20 years of experience in business management, and currently leads ESI's government business. He holds a bachelor's degree in business management from the University of Maryland. For more information visit www.esi-intl.com.