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CHIPS Articles: Focusing on IM/IT Competency Development Needs for the Future

Focusing on IM/IT Competency Development Needs for the Future
By Sandra J. Smith - October-December 2002
Several key documents assign responsibilities for Information Management/Information Technology (IM/IT) workforce development to agency Chief Information Officers (CIOs). The Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 (Section 5125 (c)) states that CIOs shall "assess the requirements established for agency personnel regarding knowledge and skill in information resources management" and, to rectify any deficiencies in meeting those requirements, will "develop strategies and specific plans for hiring, training, and professional development."

The Office of Management and Budget Circular A-130 (section 9, Assignment of Responsibilities) states that CIOs will "develop "a well-trained corps of information resource professionals." These responsibilities are reiterated in the recent reissuance of Department of Defense Directive 8001.1, which states that CIOs will "acquire, develop and retain a well-trained core of highly qualified information resource management and information assurance professionals who can accept, anticipate, and generate the changes that IT will enable." This guidance has led the Department of the Navy (DON) CIO to make a substantial commitment to competency development and management of the IM/IT workforce.

Anticipating Tomorrow's Competency Requirements

In today's DON, military success across the spectrum of Navy and Marine Corps missions relies on exploiting information to maximize the effectiveness of every individual and every organization. The DON needs a corps of knowledge workers—educated, trained, and motivated military, civilians and contractors to develop and maintain its technological edge.

The DON IM/IT leadership directly addressed this requirement in the FY 2002 DON IM/IT Strategic Plan, calling for the Navy and Marine Corps to "build IM/IT competencies to shape the workforce of the future." The DON CIO took specific action to achieve this goal by establishing a cross-functional, cross-organizational team — the IM/IT Workforce Integrated Process Team (IPT) — chartered to define a workforce strategy and conduct IM/IT workforce planning analyses to facilitate more efficient and accurate alignment of the IM/IT workforce to meet the DON's organizational goals, commitments and priorities.

Two working groups — the Civilian Working Group and the Military Working Group — concurrently developed specific workforce analyses to examine the military and civilian elements of the workforce. The reports from these two working groups present the results of the DON CIO's first attempts to develop an IM/IT workforce planning process. The results that can be matured and institutionalized to support the IM/IT community and shape it to meet the needs of future.

While the first efforts focused on workforce planning, it quickly became clear that to fully support the IM/IT workforce community, a broader, more comprehensive view of the IM/IT workforce was required. This direction was reinforced for the civilian workforce by two studies: the National Academy of Public Administration's report "The Transforming Power of Information Technology" and the Vice Chief of Naval Operations Task Force on Civilian Personnel. Both reports validated the issues the DON CIO Workforce IPT had noted, and recommended the creation of "Community Leaders" for key occupational and career communities.

DON IM/IT Community Leadership

Given the lead the DON CIO had has already taken with respect to the IM/IT workforce planning, the role of the Department's community leader is a natural progression. While both Navy and Marine Corps military personnel have had the benefit of community management, this has not been the case for civilian personnel. The creation of Navy and Marine Corps civilian community leaders will provide additional individual and service community benefits that will contribute to workforce development.

What is a community? And what does a community leader do? A community is defined as a subset of the workforce of like functions and skills, characterized by:

Functional commonality – unique core competencies integral to the DON;
Common core training – common knowledge, skills, an experience;
Common culture and identity – identifiable career path;
Senior leadership advocacy – links to community professional associations; and
Centralized access or management of information and standards.

The community leader sets the community vision, plans, and implementation strategies. He or she evaluates the community role in changing the business environment, provides a framework for succession planning, and establishes/maintains career path templates. He or she also sponsors internship programs and assesses the community’s demographics and “health.”

Based on the efforts already undertaken for the IM/IT community by the DON CIO, such as the IM/IT Workforce Strategic Plan, the Gap Analyses, and Career Planning Tool, this role has already taken off. This past June, the DON CIO reconstituted its Enterprise IM/IT Workforce Integrated Process Team (IPT) to address competency development and community requirements. The IPT includes Navy claimants, Marine Corps community leaders and other partners. Three major areas of focus were identified: Creating a DON IM/IT Workforce Virtual Community, Developing Workforce Planning Guidance, and Building IM/IT Human Capital.

Why the Emphasis on Human Capital?

To understand the IPT’s interest in building IM/IT human capital, an overview of the environment and past events is necessary. In January 2001, the Government Accounting Office designated strategic human capital management a government-wide high risk area.

The President’s Management Agenda for FY02 lists strategic management of human capital as its No. 1 initiative. Human capital issues have special bearing on the IM/IT workforce. As the government sought to “do more with less,” one of the principal strategies has been to rely more heavily on IT. However, the benefits of such a strategy may be jeopardized by the government’s ability to hire, develop and retain skilled IM/IT professionals.

In April 2001, the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) released a study on the size of the private sector IT workforce, the demand for qualified workers, and the gap between supply and demand. Among the study’s top results were the following:1

-- IT employment remains at the forefront of the U.S. economy;
-- Demand for IT workers continues to grow, despite economic setbacks; and
-- The talent gap for IT workers remains large.

Following on the heels of the private sector study, the National Academy of Public Administration released a study in August in 2001, sponsored by the Federal CIO Council to focus exclusively on the federal IT workforce. The results reinforced the same key findings reported from the private sector:

-- A competent IT workforce is critical in transforming functions within the federal government;
-- A shortage of IT professionals exists – exacerbated by the high percentage reaching retirement eligibility;
-- The pay gap between the government and private sector is widening. Mid and senior level management positions do not meet the industry pay average; and
-- The personnel system has inadequate motivational tools and a broken recruitment system.

The need for qualified IT professionals has placed the federal government in direct competition with the private sector for scarce resources. At the same time, the government has concerns about the aging and of the federal workforce, the rise in retirement eligibilities, the changes in education and skills required of workers, and the need for tools and actions to attract, hire, develop and sustain the next generation of federal employees.

The government anticipates changing employment structures to accommodate a mix of full-time, part-time and temporary workers, as well as greater emphasis on outsourcing. Compounding these issues is the drastic reduction in the federal workforce over the past decade. Within DoD alone, 11 consecutive years of downsizing resulted in a reduction of more than 410,000 civilian positions, from approximately 1,117,000 to just above 700,000 – a 37 percent reduction.2

Many of these reductions were taken through across the board staff reductions and hiring freezes rather than as targeted reductions aligned with agency missions. Without the benefit of a strategic review of the long-term results, organizations could not ensure the workforce was shaped correctly, with the right mix of skills to achieve missions effectively and efficiently. As a consequence of all these issues, there is a realization that the government must create an integrated, strategic view of its people and actively manage them as valued resources. The DON CIO is charged with managing these issues for the IM/IT workforce.

Creating a Virtual Community for IM/IT Professionals
The Global Connection of People to People and People to Resources

The need to connect with workforce members and provide them access to resources and relevant information emerged as the highest priority of the IPT to tackle. Establishing a Virtual IM/IT Workforce Community was viewed as the best solution for providing career development tools and information on technical and career related issues directly to community members across the department, maximizing the effectiveness of initiatives undertaken to address myriad IM/IT requirements.

Everyone in the IPT agreed that given the size, diversity, and dispersed locations of IM/IT community members, a virtual community would accommodate multiple needs – military, civilian, Navy, Marine Corps, etc. Ultimately, the virtual community will provide a website that defines the IM/IT community; introduces it to those who don’t know much about it; describes career opportunities; allows access to best management practices and lessons learned in technical areas; provides links to other key sites (such as Navy Information Professional (IP) Community and the Marine Corps Civilian Career Leadership Development website), and supports the creation of communities of interest.

The virtual community is a project that is supported through SPAWAR and leverages the great thinking that has been invested in developing the Navy Information Professional Virtual Workplace. In addition to developing the virtual community, the DON CIO through the IM/IT Workforce IPT will develop a “brand” image for the IM/IT community to improve recruiting and retention.

The Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit organization dedicated to recruiting and retaining excellence in the federal service, has committed to working with the DON to help develop the community identity and provide assistance through connecting with expertise in industry and the federal government.

Looking at the roles and responsibilities of a community leader, as previously defined, it is clear the DON CIO has already embarked on some of the key issues and will continue to collaborate across the department with other leaders and stakeholders. Sharing this information and ensuring that individuals feel a “sense of community” are important elements of the effort.

The Virtual IM/IT Workforce Community provides a capability of communicating and feedback that has not existed. The ability to reach workforce members more effectively will add a new dimension to the DON’s strategic IM/IT human capital efforts that is not only consistent, but also will serve as an enabler for the previous work accomplished, and new efforts taking shape in the Navy and Marine Corps.

Partnering Across the Department

Partnering is a key strategy in connecting such diverse a community. The DON CIO maintains close relations with Navy and Marine Corps community leaders and partners supporting workforce competency management. In addition, the IPT’s partnering efforts will be expanded to include the Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs Civilian and Career Leadership Development Branch, headed by Marcia Tremaine.

In a time of reduced resources, leveraging efforts throughout the department is critical. As the DON CIO and each of leaders and partners develop new initiatives, there will be increased sharing, improvements, and new capabilities that will assist in the professional growth of the IM/IT community. Working collaboratively across the department, the DON CIO has clearly taken command to achieve the DON’s goal of providing the IM/IT workforce with the best management and resources possible – addressing competency development needs to meet the future requirements.

1. When Can You Start? Building Better Information Technology Skills and Career.” Information Technology Association of America, April 2001
2. “Shaping the Civilian Acquisition workforce of the Future.” Acquisition Task Force 2000 Report, Oct. 2000

Sandra J. Smith is the DON CIO Competency Management Team Leader.

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