The Department of Veterans Affairs is moving aggressively to institute a new system to plan and manage IT projects, effectively replacing the agile development methodology championed by former chief information officers Roger Baker and Stephen Warren.
VA’s current CIO, LaVerne Council, told a MyVA Advisory Committee meeting last week that she has hired the second of three senior executives to lead the new IT Account Management organization, which is moving the agency away from the agile development methodology known as the Project Management Accountability System (PMAS) toward the newly instituted Veteran-focused Integration Process (VIP).
In a blog posted late Monday, Council said the change is about making VA “truly agile” in its IT development. “The VIP framework, launched on January 1, 2016, advances VA’s agile transformation by putting the needs of the Veteran above everything – including the needs of the agency and the personal preferences of leadership,” Council wrote. “VIP streamlines IT product release activities and increases the speed of delivering high-quality, secure capabilities to Veterans.”
According to sources who were present at the MyVA meeting, Council acknowledged replacing PMAS—first introduced in 2009 to begin delivering IT functionality in increments instead of delivering a complete project at the end of its schedule. The agile development process was championed by both of Council’s predecessors. But PMAS ran into significant challenges, including staffing shortfalls in the program management office and other management deficiencies that threatened the program’s overall success.
The shift from PMAS to VIP reduces the number of direct reports from 58 to just seven. According to a source who spoke to MeriTalk on condition of anonymity, Council’s announcement was met with skepticism. “She then smiled and said, ‘Oh, I see some frowns. There was a lot of money in generating those  reports, wasn’t there?’ ” the source said.
“The near-term goal for VIP is targeting 50 percent on-time and on-budget delivery, higher than the industry standard of 45 percent,” said Council. “The VIP on-time measurement is based on delivering a complete, final product. This near-term goal will be in place while all 218 projects transition to VIP from PMAS. A complete transition is expected by the start of FY17, at which point the on-time delivery goal will be reassessed.”
In December, Council announced the formation of the ITAM organization to serve as the agency’s IT experts in each of our business partners’ disciplines and needs. Council’s first ITAM appointment was Jackie Patillo, who was tapped to be the Corporate IT Account Manager. Her mission, according to an email from Council obtained by MeriTalk, is to develop a core set of best practices and communication streams that provide the best conduits for OI&T to share information between our business partners and our [executive program management] team, provide recommendations, and collaborate to make VA the place Veterans prefer to receive care.”
In that same email, dated Feb. 4, Council announced the hiring of Alan Constantian to serve as Deputy CIO and the Veterans Health Affairs (VHA) Account Manager for Clinical Functions. Constantian starts Feb. 21.
“Alan will be responsible for the creation and management of our VHA partners’ portfolio, providing real-time, strategic leadership to both our IT team and his counterparts in VHA on what technological tools and innovations may best support the VHA mission,” Council said. “He will also ensure that we offer programs that have benefit to the Veteran and that they achieve the benefits forecasted. He will make sure that the Veteran-focused Integration Process (VIP) and security, software, and governance processes are utilized by clinical-facing VHA business processes.”
The formation of an ITAM office is one of a dozen so-called “breakthrough outcomes” that VA Secretary Robert McDonald has tasked Council with accomplishing this year. Those key milestones include:
- 50 percent of projects on time and on budget.
- Stand up an account management office.
- Develop portfolios for all administrations.
- All supervisors and executives performance goals tied to strategy goals.
- Close all current cybersecurity weaknesses.
- Develop a holistic veteran data management strategy.
- Implement a quality and compliance office.
- Deploy a transformational vendor management strategy.
- Ensure implementation of key initiatives to improve access to care.
- Strengthen EHR Strategy.
- Establish one authoritative source for veteran contact information, military service history, and veteran status.
- Finalize the congressionally mandated DOD-VA interoperability requirements.