Commentary: A new report offers lessons for improving the way federal agencies manage e-government initiatives
Whether fighting terrorism or improving food safety, agencies rarely manage to work well together. Yet, under the citizen-centered e-government goal of the Bush administration's management agenda, special emphasis is placed on creating "one-stop," cross-agency e-government initiatives to provide integrated services to the American taxpayer.
How well are agencies working together in e-government? Are there lessons that can be learned from e-government and applied in other areas in which improved cross-agency coordination is needed?
This summer, the Performance Institute, in association with a coalition of "good government" groups, visited with major federal departments as part of a governmentwide research project examining ways to measure and evaluate the success of the administration's e-government efforts.
Our research findings, detailed in our recently released report titled "Creating a Performance-Based Electronic Government," offer a number of observations, lessons learned and potential recommendations for improvements in the way federal agencies manage e-government initiatives, especially those that cut across multiple agencies.
* Prioritize and focus on areas where coordination is needed most: E-government officials indicated that setting priorities is crucial to focusing attention and effort where cross-agency coordination can have the best impact.
For example, the Office of Management and Budget began carrying out the President's Management Agenda by surveying federal agencies for suggested cross-agency projects that could have "high payoff" and could be implemented in 18 to 24 months. OMB considered more than 350 projects before settling on the administration's 24 e-government initiatives.
* Designate a lead agency to manage the project, facilitate coordination and provide leadership, not mandates, to initiative partners: Although the report validated the "managing partner" approach to managing cross-agency e-government initiatives for the most part, several officials interviewed expressed serious concerns about the approach practiced by OMB and managing partners in determining the direction, funding sources and architecture for each initiative.
The report also found that centralizing funding for multiagency initiatives might help overcome traditional barriers to coordination.
One way to bridge the divide between two or more agencies is to subject them to shared performance goals and measurements. Furthermore, perhaps the single most important factor cited in interviews was the need for strong, sustained leadership by political appointees in each agency involved in a multiagency effort.
DeMaio is president of the Performance Institute, a think tank. A full copy of "Creating a Performance-Based Electronic Government" is available at www.performanceweb.org.
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