Mapping performance to budget on IT projects vital, expert says

Earlier this summer, the Obama administration announced enhancements to its Federal IT Dashboard – a website designed to monitor the federal government’s $80 billion in annual information technology investments.

If utilized property, says one observer, initiatives like the IT Dashboard could be used to do far more than evaluate project timelines and spend. According to Adelaide O’Brien, a research manager with IDC Government Insights, using performance measurement strategies could lead to more innovation for government and better knowledge of how constituents are using services.

“The IT Dashboard is part of the administration’s transparency and open government initiatives,” O’Brien said in an interview with CivSource. “And while it may not be perfect, metrics used by agencies will become more consistent over time.”

For example, some agencies rated future performance metrics, while others are still not current on past years’ metrics ratings. Ms. O’Brien contends that because agencies were directed to self-assess their programs, early inconsistencies will be fixed over time. And with the addition of TechStat, a face-to-face, evidence-based review of IT programs with OMB and agency leadership, more meaningful lessons can be learned.

“TechStat gets other eyes on the program. Over time, as agencies go through the review process – evaluating performance and identifying risk areas – consistency and accuracy will improve.”

Since its launch, OMB has identified twenty-six underperforming programs worth nearly $30 billion, and thirty agency TechStats sessions have been performed. While much of the evaluations have focused on cost and time, O’Brien believes the next step is better understanding how the project is helping agencies achieve their mission and understanding how constituents are affected.

“Another leg on the stool is to get metrics tied back into how the program is impacting mission delivery. Is the agency better? Is it delivering services faster? Is it cheaper?”

“At the end of the day, it’s there to help agencies spend more wisely and get more bang for the buck. It’s good information for the public, but it really is about helping agencies spend more wisely.”

“If a project is on time and on budget, it doesn’t matter if it’s not helping the mission.”

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