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Program managers are truly the ultimate user representative. They are responsible for program leadership, risk management, and outcomes advocacy. Program managers are responsible for meeting organizational and financial goals, assessing risk management, aiding team development, and fostering communication. The professional practice of program management is about keeping projects on track. Its structure and practices are designed to make sure that mission goals, mission needs, and mission programs stay on course.

What is Program Management?

Program management creates both the structure and practices to guide a program and provide senior-level leadership, oversight, and control of the cost, schedule, and performance of a project or group of projects.

What is a Program Manager?

Program managers are strategic professionals that define and supervise multiple projects simultaneously. They determine the impact of these projects, prioritize, set milestones, and ensure completion on time and within budget.

What Are a Program Managers Primary Responsibilities?

  • Oversee the overall health and outcome of an acquisition program.
  • Manage the performance, schedule, and cost of the acquisition program.
  • Maintain ongoing situational awareness of the acquisition program to assess progress to target and make necessary course corrections.
  • Share in the fiduciary duty of care and trust with which acquisition resource managers and decision makers are entrusted.

How Does the Program Management Improvement Accountability Act Affect PM Professionals?

The PMIAA is a program management reform act created to mature the PM capability on the civilian side and amend federal civilian program management policy in four important ways by:

  1. Creating a formal job series and career path for program managers in the federal government.
  2. Developing a standards-based program management policy across the federal government.
  3. Recognizing the essential role of executive sponsorship and engagement by designating a senior executive in federal agencies to be responsible for program management policy and strategy.
  4. Sharing knowledge of successful approaches to program management through an interagency council on program management.

As a result of PMIAA, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) developed a list of 32 overall competencies and 19 specific technical competencies key to the PM role. A PM isn’t expected to be an expert in every competency, but to have basic knowledge in each.

Successful Program Managers:

  • Learn specific information on how to perform key functions within their roles.
  • Improve their soft skills by utilizing development resources, asking for feedback, and stepping outside their comfort zone.
  • Complete training that focuses on immerging industry topics.
  • Strengthen their technical competencies by staying up to date on policy and news.
  • Benefit from an integrated data environment, where all program or project related data is accessible to those who need it.
  • Standardize processes across their organization.
  • Assess project risks and potential impacts before they become actual issues.
  • Identify top program risks and mitigation status.
  • Pinpoint where their organization may be able to introduce improvements.
  • Know which contract deliverables are required, government due dates, and vendor performance status.
  • Monitor key performance objectives.
  • Observe the status of a product baseline and any change documentation that may impact that standard

Without the proper tools, developing these PM skills can seem like a daunting task. Let the VAO PM Toolkit and Unison PM Suite be your guide to PM professional development and success. The VAO PM Toolkit develops the execution and competencies of PM Personnel. The Unison PM Suite supports your team in easily identifying opportunities, tracking, and mitigating risks, monitoring budget, and assessing scheduling impacts.


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