Dec 31 2009

How Labor Got to Green on the PMA

Photo: Glenn Triest

The federal government—through the management agenda launched by President Bush—is dedicated to ensuring that the resources with which it is entrusted are well-managed and wisely used. As the president likes to say, we owe that to the American people.

The White House's management initiatives are taking hold. How can we tell? First, it is reflected by the recent rating of the Labor Department, where I oversee administration and information technology programs, as the first agency to meet all of the goals laid out in the President's Management Agenda.

In summer 2001, Bush announced the PMA, an aggressive strategy for improving government with a focus on five areas: strategic management of human capital, competitive sourcing, improved financial performance, expanded e-government, and budget and performance integration.

To support the effort, agencies, working with the Office of Management and Budget, initiated quarterly PMA milestones. OMB—using a red-yellow-green rating system—scores agencies on their progress. Two sets of scores are given quarterly: status, which measures agencies' accomplishments, and progress, which addresses agencies' plans.

Leader of the Pack

The scorecard OMB issued this summer recognized Labor as the first—and thus far, only—agency to achieve green status scores for all five PMA components.

But what does achieving green mean in e-government—the area on which I, and my team in the IT shop, work most extensively? In short, it means expanded electronic access to DOL programs and services. The winners of this process are the department's 17,000 employees and its customers, including American workers, employers and taxpayers.

DOL's e-government green rating was based on five milestones:

  • having an effective enterprise architecture;
  • having acceptable business cases for all major systems;
  • demonstrating through earned-value management that each project's cost, schedule and performance for adherence overruns and shortfalls are less than 10 percent;
  • achieving security for 90 percent of the systems in our inventory;
  • complying with all appropriate e-gov initiatives.

To craft an effective enterprise architecture, Labor developed a framework for implementing EA based on federal and industry best practices. The architecture is integral to the department's strategic, security and capital planning. DOL responds to changing conditions through the integration of the EA with capital planning, which ensures necessary funding is available for implementing new and improved technologies to carry out core business functions.

OMB approves investments based on acceptable business cases, which include performance measures, milestones, schedules and costs for each project. When project development begins, we measure its baseline using an earned-value management system to ensure that costs, schedule and performance never have more than a 10 percent variance.

The integration of security is also key to our success. The theoretical cornerstone of the department's computer security program is the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Security Self-Assessment Guide for IT Systems.

Integrity, confidentiality and availability of DOL information form the basis for maintaining the trust and confidence necessary for successful e-government efforts. Senior management grants approval for a system only if there is detailed security information. As a result, more than 90 percent of systems deemed sensitive demonstrate absolute compliance with Labor's security and privacy profile.

Friend of the People

Make Your E-Gov Labors Thrive
Institute a comprehensive governance framework and investment control process that includes EA, capital planning and security.
Integrate commercial best practices and focus on becoming results-oriented.
Ensure that funded initiatives meet all defined performance goals.
Reduce redundant technical and service components to boost efficiency and performance and drive down costs.

Making Labor more citizen-centric and maximizing taxpayer investments also helped achieve the all-green rating. To fully implement e-government initiatives, DOL has developed a partnership between our mission specialists and information technologists to improve organizational performance and customer service.

Two examples are the department's Enterprise-Wide Directory Service (EWDS) and its Safety and Health Information Management System (SHIMS).

Implementation of EWDS has let DOL simplify directory functions, including e-mail services. In February 2002, Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao launched an accompanying effort to move the department to a common mail system. This successful business approach created standard e-mail addresses and IT capabilities for all employees. Using a common infrastructure reduces the number of systems required to maintain a directory and messaging infrastructure, operating requirements, and financial and human capital expenditures.

In 2001, DOL implemented SHIMS, a Web-based online injury and illness reporting system that lets employees submit claims resulting from workplace injuries. SHIMS automatically transmits the claims to the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, the agency that administers workers' compensation for the federal government. By eliminating paper filing, the system enhances the timeliness of claims reporting and reduces reporting errors and costs. SHIMS also lets workers' compensation coordinators at Labor electronically track the status and progress of a claim.

Consistent with the PMA objective of using e-government to improve internal efficiency and effectiveness, Labor has shared SHIMS with other Cabinet agencies. So far, three have signed memoranda of understanding (MOU) to implement SHIMS and eight others have expressed interest in using it. Under the MOUs, Labor will customize, implement and host the system for the agencies.

As a result of SHIMS' success, the most recent data from the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs shows Labor achieved the highest timeliness rate, at 87.6 percent, for meeting the requirement that claims be transmitted to the program office within 10 days of their receipt.

EWDS and SHIMS are just two examples, but there are other ways the department has achieved excellence, too.

At Labor, we also revamped our IT decision-making process because the previous model inhibited innovation and did not make use of IT to drive enterprisewide solutions. Under the antiquated structure, DOL organizations often made technology decisions before business decisions, failing to use IT as an enabler.

Now, Labor has implemented an enterprisewide federated business model that includes all systems and business staffs in IT decisions. This model also includes a federated approach to systems investments. Agencies must make sure that their projects comply and align with overall department guidance, but the day-to-day management of most investments is handled according to each agency's processes and procedures.

In the End

The president has said: "Government likes to begin things—to declare grand, new programs and causes. But good beginnings are not the measure of success. What matters in the end is completion, performance, results—not just making promises, but making good on promises."

At Labor, in e-government and beyond, we are making good on promises—promises that make a positive day-to-day difference in the lives of America's working men and women. In essence, this is what all-green means; there can be no more important mission.