This year marks the 20th anniversary of the IT Management Reform Act of 1996 (ITMRA) being signed into law; ITMRA together with the Federal Acquisition Reform Act became known as the Clinger-Cohen Act. This was created to improve federal government’s acquisition and management of information technology (IT) and formally established the federal CIO position.
Key processes were required for analyzing, tracking and evaluating the risks and results of all major IT investments by federal agencies. The CIO became responsible for developing, maintaining and facilitating the implementation of a sound and integrated IT architecture and, ultimately, ensuring IT aligns with and supports the overall agency mission.
While many agencies have demonstrated significant improvements over the past two decades in driving closer alignment between IT and mission, the continuously changing technology landscape and shifting environmental conditions leave some IT organizations struggling to achieve full mission alignment. Fundamental changes in operating paradigms resulting from cloud-based services, consumption-based pricing models and rapidly accelerating innovation cycles require new, lightweight and adaptable approaches to measurement and metric development.
Much of the work under the Clinger-Cohen Act focuses on coordination, planning and oversight. While a small number of agencies lean heavily toward centralized operations and, ultimately, aligning IT with the mission, most leave day-to-day IT operations to the component agencies. This often results in fragmented alignment to the overall mission of a department or agency and an aggregate number of “minor IT investments” falling under the radar screen and having little impact on the greater purpose.
To overcome this disjointed approach to align IT and the mission, we recommend “balanced scorecards.” The authors of The Balanced Scorecard – Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton state: “The Balanced Scorecard offers a systematic and comprehensive road map for organizations to follow in translating their mission statements into a coherent set of performance measures. These measures are not used simply to control behavior, but rather ‘to articulate the strategy of the business, to communicate the strategy of the business, and to help align individual, organizational, and cross-departmental initiatives to achieve a common goal.’”
At Fusion PPT, we utilize the four key perspectives to implement balanced scorecards for our clients. The balanced scorecard examines the organization from these perspectives and provides a platform for metrics relative to each. These perspectives include:
- Customer Perspective
We believe that this is the most important perspective. Before creating metrics, we first analyze the type of customers and ensure multiple stakeholders and representative groups are included. To develop metrics, we utilize proactive surveys and focus groups on a standardized schedule and are mindful of over-surveying. A sample metric under this perspective may track the satisfaction levels of the users with the speed at which new product features are incorporated into new software releases.
- Mission Perspective
This perspective looks at key internal processes. The strategic plan, mission and organizational goals all help frame this perspective. These might include items such as provisioning for an IT service provider, speed to deploy resources for an emergency aid organization or threat reduction for defense organizations.
- Innovation Perspective
Employee innovation and agency cultural attitudes related to both individual and organizational self-improvement are key to this perspective. Metrics are used to guide managers in tracking new contributed ideas or participation with existing collaboration tools like SharePoint or Slack.
- Financial Perspective
This perspective is critical to ensure that IT investments match the priorities of the organization and budget allocation. Alignment of funds to budget investments, data from OMB300s and operational program data from projects, Earned Value Management (EVM) data can all be collected here.
With this information in the balanced scorecards, strategy maps can be developed as communication tools to depict how specific IT investments are made for an organization. They illustrate a pragmatic, step-by-step connection between strategic objectives.
Our success with balanced scorecards has been in the logical approach that produces actionable tools and systems that can be used on an on-going basis. For one client, we developed a balanced scorecard within their existing SharePoint environment, incorporating all strategic IT programs and investments. After analyzing the balanced scorecard, we were table to identify and de-commission several products not having an impact on mission objectives. In addition, we reduced the contractor spending in areas that could be phased out by using new technology. After a year, the client redirected 30 percent of their spending away from low value operations and maintenance toward more mission-focused innovation programs with accelerated time-to-impact.