Jul 01 2014

How the White House Is Measuring IT Performance

The Office of Management and Budget released several metrics that agencies must track and report publicly each quarter.

In March, the Obama administration announced 15 Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goals to “address the longstanding challenge of tackling horizontal problems across vertical organizational silos.”

It’s no surprise that information technology delivery, cybersecurity and open data made the list. For the first time last week, the public got an inside view of what success should look like in those areas and how agencies plan on measuring their growth.

Each quarter the White House's Office of Management and Budget will review agencies’ progress toward meeting their goals and will update Performance.gov with the latest results, OMB Deputy Director for Management Beth Cobert wrote in a recent blog post.

Some metrics are more straightforward than others, such as measuring the percentages of IT projects that fall within 10 percent of their budgeted costs and that are within 10 percent of meeting their delivery schedules. Another metric for tracking IT delivery is the number of days it takes for IT users to experience new features and capabilities.

But the metrics don’t explain what is an acceptable number of days for an IT project to deliver functionality, or to what extent the public should expect variations among agencies.

Barriers to Incremental IT Delivery

In 2010, following chronic failures in which IT investments were behind schedule and over budget, OMB called on agencies to deliver IT capabilities every 12 months. Now, agencies are required to deliver functionality every six months, the Government Accountability Office noted in a May report.

GAO has found that achieving that goal is easier said than done.

There are inconsistencies in how agencies implement incremental development, and there appears to be a disconnect between what agencies think is feasible and what OMB expects. Agencies say OMB’s guidance on incremental development is not feasible, because not all types of investments should deliver functionality in six months, and the guidance did not identify what agencies’ policies should include or offer time frames for completion, according to GAO.

“GAO agrees these concerns have merit,” the report notes. “Until OMB issues realistic and clear guidance and agencies address the weaknesses in their incremental development policies, it will be difficult to deliver project capability more rapidly.”

OMB agreed with GAO’s recommendation to issue guidance for developing IT projects incrementally but argued that changing the requirement from six months to 12 months “would reduce the emphasis on incremental development.”

You can view a complete list of the CAP goals and action plans at Performance.gov.


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