Taking measure of e-gov projects

As many agencies struggle to define ways to measure the performance of their IT investments, the General Services Administration seems to have found a method that works.

Roxie Murphy, director of GSA’s E-Government Strategies Division in the Office of Governmentwide Policy, said agency IT workers are applying the CIO Council’s Value Measuring Methodology to three e-government projects.

“The methodology is supposed to improve your overall IT investment because you are looking at more than just return on investment,” Murphy said. “You are looking at value, cost and risk. By putting your investment through the VMM, you are documenting the decision process and building documents for justification.”

When applied to IT projects, the VMM lets IT managers compare a potential project against possible alternatives, Murphy said.

“You are coming up with an even or normalized scale so you can compare apples to apples,” she said. “For each alternative, you come up with a value score. In the end, you can compare scores fairly since they were based on the same criteria.”

The CIO Council’s Best Practices Committee released the methodology in April, and GSA held training sessions over the summer for 160 federal executives, Murphy said.

GSA has applied the VMM to its Quicksilver initiatives for E-Authentication and E-Travel, and to its Extensible Markup Language Registry, and plans to use it on the Business Gateway project.

Murphy said IT managers to prioritize a project in five areas:
  • Return on investment

  • Direct customer benefits

  • Social factors

  • Fit in the agency’s enterprise architecture

  • Strategic and political factors.

“You have to establish performance measures within each of those factors,” she said. “This way you know what the organization thinks is important.”

For the three projects, Murphy said she met with agency executives to prioritize the five areas. The managers ranked each factor, then Murphy came up with averages.

“This helps you build consensus and support from the senior managers,” she said. “It also helps people focus on what is important and what the impact of the project is on the agency.”

Next step

After the agency’s priorities are finalized, Murphy said each planned investment should be put through a four-step process:
  • Develop a decision framework where agencies define risk, performance measures, cost structure and the objectives of the project.

  • Perform an alternative analysis to identify value, risk and cost factors. Murphy said this should lead IT officials to find the most- effective plan.

  • Compile information to get a cost estimate, return-on-investment metrics, value score, risk scores and comparison of cost, value and risk.

  • Generate internal support through communication and documentation of cost, risk and value factors.

“If you use the VMM for each project, then it allows you to look at your projects from a portfolio aspect,” Murphy said. “That gives you the most value.”

Another benefit from the process is the work from the VMM satisfies most of the Office of Management and Budget’s business case requirements, she said.

“Value, cost and risk always affect each other,” Murphy said. “The VMM lets you measure them, and from that, you get to understand their relationship better. And that is important for a project’s success.”

About the Author

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