Obama and the World of Project Management
With the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States and his coming inauguration in January, many are predicting his impact in specific areas. While his priorities are shifting, and will probably continue to in the face of current critical needs, there are likely to be some continuing themes that remain consistent throughout his time in office, and they can provide some guidance as to what to expect.
Barack Obama's victory as the next president of the United States has led many to conclude that a lot of areas will soon be facing significant change. The challenge to keep to what already works well and to transform those that need improvement could be a staple within the new administration, especially since we are facing troubled times. They key factor is proper management, of course, and with Obama's entry, everyone's eyes are focused on how his goals would mesh with the realm of project management.
Let's have a look at five priority areas. Here is my take on how they might influence project and program management:
1. Health care reform. Reform in health care is aimed at controlling costs and making health care more available and more affordable to many more people in the United States. On the cost control side, it would seem that we can expect companies and organizations of all sorts will put an increasing emphasis on accelerating cost-containment in their organizations. While they are mostly already doing that, there are likely to be policy initiatives over time that will accelerate and facilitate that effort in certain ways.
Projects of the Six Sigma nature should be incorporated more into health care projects, particularly among care providers and employees of pharmaceutical firms. It could include rethinking of priorities in favor of cost control and containment. Based upon many statements made, we can expect emphasis on more efficient information systems to manage personal and general health care information. The move to make health care available to most, or all, American citizens would seem to be quite a logistical and administrative challenge, spawning further projects in information technology and records management.
2. Energy. There has been a lot of talk about energy throughout the campaign, and hopefully not everything will shift as dramatically as energy prices have! But I think this will be a continuing source of projects of all sorts, and virtually everything in the energy field is big and requires expert project management skills. There are tremendous logistical and operational challenges throughout the whole supply chain, from extraction all the way through getting product to the consumer. Keeping some semblance of balance in that supply chain, especially in the face of erratic pricing and markets, makes that even more challenging.
There is likely to be an increased interest in alternative energy sources, including an emphasis on natural gas, drilling in new areas, wind energy, and solar energy. The key factor in my mind is the economics of each and tracking the variability in those factors, so that when changes come projects can be started rapidly. Given that most of these are large capital intensive projects, and that they are long term in nature, they will be hard to stop once started, and project selection and portfolio management will require exceptional skill.
3. Tax reform. Much emphasis has been put on tax fairness. This has been a clear indication that higher income individuals will receive higher tax rates. This could have an effect on consumer spending and possibly investment, thus effecting projects accordingly. It also may be that capital gains taxes will increase, and this will have a direct impact on the viability of projects many projects. The question is, how much of an impact, and specifically where?
My guess is that these tax policy changes will have a marginal impact as far as project managers go. I believe that those viable projects will remain viable, and only a few from the status quo will have to be changed. Of course in the short term, at least, the availability of money to finance many projects is a huge factor.
4. Education. Frankly, I am not sure at all what education reforms might be viable, but here are some ideas. Any educational service related to technology and the bringing of books, virtual classrooms, and interactive learning that bring efficiencies to the educational process will be considered. Other things that I think will be considered relate to customization of educational services or segments, such as charter schools who want to make their own innovative programs.
There may also be some macro changes in the educational system, related to local versus broader control of education. This type of thing would likely spawn information technology projects aimed at tying together information across local domains. Other changes in this area could relate to sharing teaching resources and flexibility across educational domains for both students and teachers.
5. Regulatory reform and infrastructure spending. There will likely an increased number of regulatory reform projects related to new financial regulations probably at the top of the list, just as there have been a plethora of Sarbanes-Oxley projects in the last few years, though there will be an increasing number of projects of that sort with the new changes to come.
Areas where such projects are most likely to occur include financial (at the top of the list) and environmental. Regulatory reform could have an impact on transportation, and the transportation infrastructure is likely to be the target of a great deal of fiscal spending. Any projects are likely to be large, requiring substantial professional project management, and many will also be information intensive.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Reiling, PMP, PE, MBA is an experienced Project Manager and Engineer. John's web sites, Project Management Training Online and Lean Six Sigma Training Online, provide online training in Lean, Six Sigma, and related topics. John writes regularly in his Project Management blog, PMcrunch.com .