OMB releases performance reference for IT

Federal Enterprise Architecture Program Management Office

The Office of Management and Budget released last week the model that agencies will use to determine how their information systems help the performance of their missions.

The Performance Reference Model is one of five that make up the details of the Federal Enterprise Architecture, which OMB officials use to help coordinate and integrate information technology programs and systems across government. The other reference models focus on everything from the types of functions agencies perform to the technology they use; the performance reference ties the other four models together, Norm Lorentz, OMB's former chief technology officer, said at the E-Gov Enterprise Architecture conference earlier this month.

The PRM connects work on the technology side of a program, such as upgrades or consolidated systems, to outcomes on the service side. The link "is critical for IT project managers, program managers and key decision-makers to understand how and to what extent technology is enabling progress towards outputs and outcomes," according to the document.

Giving agencies the ability to measure how new projects improve services is a key portion of the President's Management Agenda and the Program Assessment Rating Tool. It is also the impetus behind the Government Performance and Results Act. So far, members of Congress and external observers have given agencies low grades on their ability to gauge the impact of their IT work.

Agencies used a draft version of the reference model to develop submissions for the fiscal 2005 budget, which were due earlier this month. OMB required agencies to identify at least one indicator, such as delivery time, for each of the following four measures in their IT business cases:

* Mission and business results, which outline the high-level goals of an agency.

* Customer results, which provide details on how well an agency or program is meeting user needs.

* Processes and activities measures that look specifically at the outcomes of an IT system, such as how more accurate financial information affects a service.

* Technology looks at measuring the actual performance of the IT system itself, including improved efficiency and interoperability.

The PRM also includes metrics for workforce productivity and other fixed assets, but those will not be used until the fiscal 2006 budget cycle.

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