Show Me the Measures!

The report Creating a Performance-Based Electronic Government: Fiscal Year 2002 Progress, subtitled The State-of-the-Practice on How e-Government Initiatives in Federal Agencies are Progressing Toward Achieving Cost Efficiencies and Improved Program Performance and published by a consortium of US organisations, led by the private think tank the Performance Institute finds that:

The general inability of most agencies to effectively measure their e-government performance may ultimately thwart the initial gains made in the e-government arena. Of the $48 billion spent on information technology in FY 2002, this survey indicates that most of those expenditures were not justified by mission-aligned performance measures. This practice represents a “high risk” business practice that could result in failed IT projects and losses to the taxpayer.

The survey found a number of common themes and pinpoints ten key issues:

1. The administration and the Office of Management and Budget are cited for their strong leadership of e-Government initiatives, though some improvements are needed

2. Agencies generally fail to use mission-aligned IT performance measures to justify, manage and evaluate the success of e-Government

3. Agencies need to become more creative and willing to “blow up” old program structures with technology

4. Non-governmental intermediaries are providing greater opportunities to borrow rather than build an e-Government solution

5. E-Government is increasingly focusing on the citizen again, but not all e-Government initiatives are “Citizen-Centered”

6. CIO’s are assuming an appropriate role of “enabler” of agency business processes and are more integrated with the rest of the agency’s leadership

7. More program managers are playing leadership roles in e-Government, but more needs to be done to engage all program managers in e-Government leadership roles

8. Excellent cross-agency coordination is seen in the priority e-Government initiatives, but stove-piped systems and processes remain an obstacle to an integrated e-Government

9. The Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA) is recognized as the necessary, but missing scaffolding for all agency e-Government initiatives

10. Establishing clear priorities is paying off in generating attention to and sufficient funding for key e-Government initiatives

The Project Recommendations are:
· Supplement the PMA e-Government Scorecard
· Continue to Set Guidelines While Encouraging Flexibility
· Integrate IT Performance Measures with Other Agency Performance Measures as Part of a Single Strategic Management Approach
· Integrate Selection of Performance Measures with the Agency’s Capital Plan and Information Technology Investment Management (ITIM)Model
· Focus on the Vital Few Measures of e-Government Performance
· Imperfect Performance Information is Better than No Performance Information
· Don’t Let Lack of Baseline Information Deter Measurement Approaches
· Agencies Should Align e-Government Measurement Initiatives with Efforts to Improve Financial Management
· Expanded Emphasis by OMB on IT Performance Measures in Budget Justifications
· Harness the Power of Competition by Tasking Multiple Teams with a Common Challenge
· OMB Should Continue its Measurement of Common Programs and Expand its Common Measurement Approach to Include Common Business Processes
· Agencies and OMB Provide Room for Innovation by Encouraging Small, Scaleable and Inter-Operable Pilot Applications of e-Government Ideas

Alan Mather has a good comment on the report: “But what are people doing about it in government? The silo-based initiatives have been there forever and continue to proliferate. Only if we put strong controls in to prevent decisions being made on IT projects by silo can we hope to address the issue … and couple that with an architecture that allows modules to be developed throughout government by whoever has the expertise and need, but that can be plugged in and made available to all.”

Alan is right. As I see it, scorecards and everything are good, but what’s important is their usages. If someone gets yellow or red, it must have consequences. That is however not the same as enforcing an practice where the heads are rolling. But a bit of good old governance and strong, but fair, control is needed to prevent that silos and ivory towers continue to proliferate.

More coverage:
FCW: Report sets e-gov measuring stick
GovExec: Report praises federal e-gov efforts, but urges agencies to measure results

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