Mar 14 2008

The Right Driver

To set metrics, be sure to start with the desired outcome.

By now the acronym ROI probably rumbles through the brains of most federal IT program managers like a mantra: return on investment, return on investment, return on investment.

Certainly, the expectation from the Office of Management and Budget is that agencies will measure performance and figure out how to get the most from each technology dollar invested. The administration has been on a major measurement push since President Bush took office. But the overall thrust of technology metrics is in flux, says Val Sriber, vice president of the Applications Research Group for Gartner of Stamford, Conn.

Success today still mainly means an IT project is “on time, on budget, on spec and on value,” Sriber says. But now, he adds, organizations are beginning to ask for those metrics plus the percentage of functions retired and the percentage of functions reused.

To make metrics work in the federal world, where most agencies have major infrastructure transformations under way, Sriber suggests hewing to these pointers:

  • Know the measure you’re trying to drive. “You must always ask: ‘If I measure this, what behavior am I trying or going to drive?’ ”
  • Keep the number of things that the IT team measures under control. “If there are too many, you lose sight of the objective.”
  • Offer incentives to encourage reuse of components and the retiring of little-used IT services.
  • Get agreement from senior managers and line managers on what’s being changed, why it needs to be changed and how the change will be achieved. Otherwise, the metrics will become a moving target and there will be no way to track progress.
  • Measure your measurements. To figure out if your measurements are working, review your metrics over time and determine how often they got to the root of the problem. If this figure is low, then it’s time to tighten up the process and hone in on the goals.

The new focus on reuse and consolidation in the IT infrastructure makes business sense, Sriber says. After a transformation, the result should be a smaller footprint, he says, which equals less cost, less time and less risk from a disaster or a system going awry.