Tracking agency performance via the Web
- By Colleen O'Hara
- Jul 24, 2000
For several years, agencies have struggled with how to use performance measures
to improve the way they manage and budget their programs, including the
ones driven by information technology systems.
One agency — the Commerce Department's Minority Business Development
Agency — decided to build its own system to help track the performance of
its business centers, its employees and the impact of its work on the people
it serves. The agency assists more than 2 million minority-owned businesses
through a network of 40 business development centers.
The agency's performance reporting system is the first to measure em-
ployee performance and service- delivery effectiveness on a real-time,
daily basis on the World Wide Web, said Michael O'Hara Garcia, MBDA's chief
information officer. IT also helps the agency comply with the Government
Performance and Results Act (GPRA).
"When we built the system, we had GPRA hanging over our head," Garcia said.
Agencies submitted their first GPRA reports to Congress to mixed reviews
earlier this year.
However, Garcia said the extranet-based performance reporting system
has helped the agency comply with GPRA. By tracking the performance of about
300 employees who assist minority businesses across the country, the agency
knows immediately how well it is meeting its performance goals. It can also
provide detailed reports to Congress at the push of a button.
"We take our overall GPRA productivity measure and drive that down to the
individual business centers," Garcia said. The system can even collect detailed
information on employees, including how well they are meeting certain quotas,
such as finding 10 new minority business resources a month.
"Managers can click on individual centers to [see] what percentage of
annual or quarterly goals [they] accomplished that day to see how far ahead
or behind [they] are in meeting those goals," Garcia said. With the performance
reporting system, the MBDA has eliminated a huge amount of time and paperwork
that was required to generate reports in the past. Data is entered directly
into the system, and managers receive daily reports on their desktops.
Previously, the agency used a system that was only updated every three
months, so mistakes made in the first month were not caught until the fourth
month. And data was not easily accessed: The business development centers
would file a report to a mainframe at the end of every quarter. "This did
not lend itself to effective management," Garcia said.
Before building the new system, the agency had to put in place a strategic
plan, get buy-in from top management, standardize its desktop environment
and get more bandwidth than it needed to accommodate future growth. The
MBDA designed the system three years ago, and it took about two years to
get it up and running the way the agency wanted, Garcia said.
Robert Henderson, director of the MBDA Atlanta Regional Office, said
he uses the system every day to check on the progress and performance of
the business development centers. "Is it a good system? Yes. Do I get enough
information to make fair decisions? Sure," he said, adding that he also
uses the system to verify that the centers have done what they claimed to
Washington, D.C.-based Q-Industries helped build the system and is upgrading
The company plans to add the ability to deliver reports wirelessly,
said Frank Clark, chief executive officer of Q-Industries. A member of Congress,
for example, who wants to know the value of loans awarded to minority businesses
in his or her district could access that information via a wireless device,