GAO wants better OPM metrics

As the managing partner for five e-government initiatives, the Office of Personnel Management should develop strong performance measures to capture cost savings, officials said today.

Although OPM says its e-gov programs will save $2.7 billion, General Accounting Office officials were unable to determine how the agency came up with those numbers, or how savings would be tracked over time.

"Based on work we've done to date, what we've seen raises a lot of questions about how the cost savings were calculated," said Linda Koontz, GAO's director of information management issues.

She was testifying before the House Government Reform subcommittee on technology, information policy, intergovernmental relations and the census.

"We haven't yet seen the details that allow you to replicate the numbers OPM is coming up with," Koontz said.

OPM is the managing partner for recruitment one-stop, e-clearance, e-training, e-payroll and enterprise human resource integration.

Norm Enger, OPM's director of e-government, said agency officials could make an effort to clarify the details that led them to that estimate. For instance, the agency expects the payroll initiative to save about $1.1 billion, the biggest savings among the five programs. The estimate was based on the merger of 14 legacy payroll systems into two main systems, when in fact there are about 22 systems to be merged, so OPM may save even more than originally projected, Enger said.

"I have every expectation the e-payroll number will go up," he said. "Much of that are the stovepipes, the separate operations."

Enger said he expects many of the systems to be migrated by Sept. 30, 2004, and cost savings will be realized by fiscal 2005.

Koontz also identified a need for strong change management processes overseeing the agency's transformations, particularly in the merger of payroll systems.

"It will be crucial for OPM to implement effective change management and communications policies," she said. "In addition, technical integration across agencies to support consolidation, including the development of standards, is a formidable task."

These challenges often apply to other managing partners overseeing e-government initiatives, Koontz said after the hearing. "It probably applies across the board to all e-gov initiatives. I think that is pretty basic," she said, adding that some agencies might have more specific obstacles, depending on the initiatives.

John de Ferrari, GAO's assistant director for information technology issues, said most agencies are in the beginning stages of developing performance metrics. He said there are often theoretical benefits, such as speeding up the processes for clearances by a given number of days, but agencies haven't determined how to capture and document those benefits.

"We certainly found agencies couldn't tell us specific ways they were going to measure savings," he said.


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