Plunkett: Crafting metrics not too difficult

Measuring the value of information technology to an agency’s mission isn’t as difficult as it seems, said Pat Plunkett, an IT performance management specialist at the Housing and Urban Development Department, who spoke this week at a technology issues forum.

Measurement is often difficult because no one has defined a metric to describe an IT system’s purpose within the larger mission of the agency, Plunkett said. Another difficulty is that any metric, such as improving customer service, can be measured in different ways.

“Each metric that you come up with has multiple measurement methods,” Plunkett said, speaking at joint presentation by the Chief Architects Forum and the IT performance management and semantic interoperability communities of practice in Washington, D.C.

“Usually the [measurement method] you think of first is the hardest and most expensive one,” he added.

Performance measurement is often regarded as a compliance burden, and much of the data generated to satisfy mandatory reporting requirements is useless, Plunkett said. But when done right, collecting performance information gives agencies a better means of managing, he said.

The performance measurement community is divided among several organizations that don’t always communicate, Plunkett said. Information generated for compliance with the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 is often maintained by agencies’ chief financial officers. Officials responsible for metrics for the President’s Management Agenda are located in the Office of Management and Budget. Program employees collect information for the Performance Assessment and Rating Tool.

“There really is no one dedicated to performance management because it’s everybody’s responsibility,” Plunkett said. “What’s needed is a unified field theory of performance management.”

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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