IT performance measures go on and on

The literature on performance measures frequently expresses how difficult it is to measure the impact of information technology on the performance of an agency.

I believe the problem lies in trying to define a single set of IT performance measures to use year after year.

By nature, we try to categorize and define the world around us so that there is consistency over time. We are uncomfortable accepting that change is the norm. But IT has created dramatic changes in organizations and society, and the Internet has accelerated change even more aggressively.

Therefore, when drafting IT performance measures, it's best to define them to assess the impact of IT this year—not year after year.

Looking back, from oldest to most recent, one could define the following revolutions in IT's impact on business, the federal government and society in general:

Percent of PCs per employee. Percent of employees with e-mail addresses. Percent of employees with Internet access. Percent of organizations with Web sites. Percent of transactions online. Each of these revolutions has dramatically altered the way an agency can assess performance. And after each revolution, it seems a waste of time to spend any kind of analysis on what has passed. When technology—PCs, e-mail addresses or Internet access—becomes part of the fabric of business such as a desk or a telephone, it is time to focus our performance measures analysis on something more meaningful.

My recommendation is not to seek "constant" performance measures and metrics, but instead to think only in terms of this year's performance measures for assessing the impact of IT based on the current revolution in IT. Each year should be a fresh new look and the development of a new set of performance measures for assessing IT's impact on the mission of the agency.

What revolution are we going through now? Clearly the movement to enhanced mobility as represented by personal digital assistants and cell phones is an established trend. There also is a revolution in integrating PDAs, cell phones, cameras and other real-time devices into this mobility framework.

A strategy (and the corresponding performance measures) that emphasizes connectivity, mobility and integration of devices will be in the right zone of today's IT revolution. In a couple of years, it will be something else. Variety keeps life interesting. Enjoy.

Kellett is founder of the federal Web Business Council, co-chairman of the Federal WebMasters Forum and director of GSA's Emerging IT Policies Division.

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