Optimize Year-End Funds to Achieve OPM’s Program and Project Management Essential Skills

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The following blog is written by Strategy Execution Subject Matter Expert Joe Czarnecki

In April 2019, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released a defined set of Program and Project Management competencies as part of the Program Management Improvement Accountability Act (PMIAA) implementation. With input from across the Federal government, OPM identified 32 general competencies and 19 technical competencies deemed essential for current and future program and project managers.

Do Your Employees Have the Program and Project Management Competencies?

Agencies might not require program and project managers to possess all the competencies, but employees possibly lack critical ones for the role. For instance, a few general competencies on OPM’s list are creative thinking, flexibility, and managing resources.

In our study, Emerging Trends in Project-Based Work, we found that organizations feel that the lack of these essential skills lower successful work:

  • 83% of survey respondents see the lack of adaptive and creative leadership mindsets as the biggest barrier to success.
  • 86% of respondents say they struggle to prioritize work streams and resources against shifting priorities.

Consider a day in the life of government acquisition program and project managers. As stewards of taxpayer funds, they manage a set of complex and high stakes projects. Yet, they face another layer of complexity with all the changes happening in and out of the Federal government. Expectations for acquisition reform and innovation keep mounting as groups such as the Section 809 Panel and the Office of Federal Procurement Policy make recommendations and guidance.

Externally, companies are innovating its products and services in ways that do not always fit neatly with existing definitions and practices. Many of these factors challenge program and project leaders to think and act in ways that they have not been trained on yet. Training for general and technical competencies is important to successfully navigating changes and support their organizations’ missions.

For Federal agencies, developing and cultivating all the necessary program and project management competencies – whether for acquisition programs, grant management, construction, IT, etc. – is a bona fide need.

Can Year-End Spending Address Training Needs?

Addressing training and professional development needs between now and September 30th is logistically challenging given workloads and course availability. However, rather than delay training plans, agencies have an opportunity to act now and start the new fiscal year on a strong note.

Using FY2019 funds, Federal agencies and teams may be able to develop important competencies identified by OPM. Here’s a checklist of conditions:

Criteria for buying with year-end funds:

  • Current FY funds are available
  • Purpose of the funds aligns with the service
  • Purchase adheres to the bona fide needs rule
  • The service schedule is beyond the agency’s control
  • The time between the obligated service and performance is not excessive

Source: U.S. GAO – B-238940, Feb. 25, 1991

Meeting all these factors is important. Check that current year funds (i.e., FY2019) are indeed available and designated for your purpose (e.g., training). A legitimate need must exist. Given OPM’s memo, agencies legitimately need a workforce that possesses the identified competencies.

Make sure to assess your skill gaps, then identify program and project management courses that will address your needs and check their availability. Ensure that the period between the obligation (i.e., class registration) and time of the class is not excessive. The definition of “excessive” has some room for judgement, but a reasonable rule of thumb to follow is not to go beyond the first three months of the new fiscal year to receive the goods and services.

What Are Your Training Options?

As you consider ways to build up program and project management competencies, there are different training options to think about. Below are three training options to optimize year-end funds:

    1. Continuing Education (One Time Event): There are a variety of project management classes such as Advanced Acquisition for Federal Government Project Managers FPM 312 (FPM 332) and Critical Thinking and Problem Solving scheduled throughout the year. Classes scheduled for October 2019 and beyond fall outside of FY2019. However, registration now is important to securing a spot. In this situation, you do not control the schedule and the period till the class is generally reasonable.
    2. Exam Prep (One Time Event): Both the PMIAA competencies and the Federal Acquisition Certificate in Program and Project Management (FAC-P/PM) do allow for taking courses that are outside the stated curriculum and bring in new ideas. This coupled with the announcement from the Project Management Institute (PMI) that they are dramatically changing the structure and content of the Project Management Professional (PMP) Exam beginning on December 16, 2019. If you have started studying for this exam, now is the time to take the PMP® Exam Power Prep course to propel you across that finish line before the exam changes. Classes are scheduled now throughout the end of the year and there is an online version for this one as well.
    3. Subscription (12 months): Year-long subscriptions starting before September 30th are allowable if a bona fide need exists. Based on a GAO Decision (B-309530, September 17, 2007), using current year funds for subscriptions starting in October are also allowable.


The use of current year funds for options such as onsite training  and certificate programs will depend on additional details. Given the range of possibilities, Strategy Execution can help you identify specific options. For a consult, contact us directly via phone +1 703.558.3000 or email govt@strategyex.com.


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