Monday, July 6, 2009

Public gets Visibility into Government IT Spending

government IT spending dashboardThe government recently released the beta version of the IT Dashboard. It provides a level of transparency to the public which could help the general population to become better informed about the performance of Federal IT investments. The system meets many of the recommendations for effective dashboards in my past post Dashboards - Not Just for Cars, but as noted in that post, the dashboard itself has little value without a well-defined supporting process. The process, in this case, probably falls into the category of providing transparency to the public, but is not intended to be used as a “sense and response” tool by the agencies and teams managing the investments and projects.

An interesting and often common side effect of this type of dashboard is that despite any pitfalls that come as a result of being designed for public transparency only (see my post about Information dashboards), the ease of use and graphical nature often provides a view into valuable data that was either:

  1. non-existent before
  2. available, but in existing systems that are too difficult to use to proactively manage exceptions in a timely manner

As a result, the projects are managed better than ever before - even with ill-fitting tools. This phenomenon can enlighten managers to what can be possible if the same approach to providing visibility is focused on the control process.

I hope the Federal agencies have a user-friendly internal system that already provides visibility to these investments/projects at a level of detail that provides for effective management. However, if the amount of red on the graphs is an indicator, I suspect the internal managers and leaders can get a lot of mileage out of the using the new system to drive improvements. It has to get pretty bad to show yellow or red. For example, the cost graph only goes red if the actual cost is 40% or more over budget. The schedule is yellow if the average number of days late is 30-89 days.

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