Creating a Balanced Portfolio of Information Technology Metrics


Creating a Balanced Portfolio of Information Technology Metrics

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015 - 14:15
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Given the growing dependence on information technology (IT) for service delivery and the accomplishment of mission objectives and the trend of increasing spending on IT, it is important that we have tools and techniques in place to develop a balanced portfolio of measures of IT performance, which include IT project management, IT operations management, and IT innovation.

This report investigates the state of the use of IT metrics in the public sector. The project reviewed literature across diverse fields such as management sciences, information systems, public administration and management, and operations management to examine the state-of-the-art approaches to the use of metrics for IT in the public sector. The project analyzed strategic plans from federal and state government IT offices to understand how metrics were captured in these formal plans.

The Need for Metrics

Information technologies (ITs) are critical assets in all aspects of the public sector. The critical ity of designing, implementing, and maintaining IT assets in an effective and efficient manner cannot be underestimated. Over the last few years, spending on IT has increased across all three levels of government (federal, state, and local), and most observers expect this trend to continue.

Given this growth in spending and the critical connection of IT to the operations and success of public agencies, we hear a limited number of success stories on how IT has helped transform agencies, deliver service more optimally, save taxpayer resources, and even lead innova tion efforts to address vexing social challenges. We are more likely to hear about IT projects that have “gone rogue” and failed to deliver on their promises.

One possible cause for these problematic IT projects is that the chief information officer (CIO) community has not done enough to invest in the creation of metrics that capture the performance of IT assets and their contribution to organizational performance. Building performance management processes and capabilities requires CIOs to invest time and effort to capture, validate, analyze, and share data on metrics. In the absence of credible information on IT performance, anecdotal evidence about IT failures is likely to dominate the discussion of IT performance in the public sector. With the availability of IT performance metrics, CIOs can both proactively manage performance and demonstrate
mission results.

In light of very public IT failures at each level of government, the time now appears ripe for fur ther improvement in the management of IT projects with the development of IT metrics. There are efforts underway to modernize policies and procedures when it comes to IT management and the role of the CIO. The challenge is that IT projects are highly complex, and government now is attempting to better manage that complexity. Part of the response to this has been the increased emphasis on developing metrics to measure current IT performance. As government deals with the challenge of IT and organizational complexity, its response has been to enact stronger performance management tools, such as metrics. Metrics should be used to measure current performance, as well as to signal opportunities for improvement.

Metrics identify organizational priorities and measure the performance of those priorities. Metrics should track performance and guide operational and strategic decisions. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) have extolled the need for quality IT metrics in government to measure and assess the effectiveness and viability of IT projects.

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