DOD to test IT system performance measures

The Defense Department last week launched a project designed to test its methods for measuring the performance of its information systems.

Under the CIO Performance Executive Pilot Program Defense Health Affairs and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) will spend nearly a year defining the best measures for their information technology programs and how to generate the data they need to determine whether these systems support their overall goals. Performance measurement is required by two management-reform bills enacted over the past few years - the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) and the Clinger-Cohen Act.

"We recognize that performance measurement is hard to do " said Margaret Myers Defense acting deputy assistant secretary for command control communications and intelligence. "Part of this [pilot] is to help a couple of organizations launch a performance measurement process and see what we learn so we can help other components initiate their own projects."

Although performance measures are not completely new for Defense agencies in the past officials mainly paid attention to acquisition-related milestones such as whether a system is delivered on time and within its budget. But Clinger-Cohen and GPRA demand agencies track how their systems perform throughout their life cycles - something that every federal agency is struggling to learn how to do.

As part of the project DLA and Health Affairs will develop a software tool that IT executives can use to track their systems. At the end of the pilot agency officials will have World Wide Web-based software they can use to capture performance data from acquisition budget and other systems said Gwendolyn Humphries a project manager with Alexandria Va.-based contractor Systems Engineering and Management Associates Inc.

Other agencies might be able to use this tool later but "we're not pushing a particular solution " said Tamie Lyles-Santiago a DOD computer specialist who works under Myers. The goal of the project is "to come away with a common understanding of what needs to be done overall."

The project will test procedures for measuring performance and managing IT as an investment that were outlined in a guide DOD published earlier this year.

By applying these methods officials hope to learn what types of measures are useful how they should be reported and how they should be used."There won't be a standard DOD performance measurement process " Myers said. "You'll do what works for you and your organization."

DLA and Health Affairs will be collecting data on systems that already have been purchased and fielded and will be using the information to determine whether these systems are producing anticipated benefits.

At Health Affairs officials will be studying systems within the Defense Medical Logistics Standards Support (DMLSS) program office which is in charge of keeping track of military medical supplies throughout the world said Victoria Barrera-White agency analyst. Barrera-White said the performance pilot would help her agency assess the benefits of DMSS systems "based on data not anecdotal information " and help to improve access to and quality of medical care.

The information DMLSS collects will be used to make decisions about its programs she added.

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