Thursday, July 02, 2009

US Federal government launches public IT Dashboard

I've been known to say, from time to time, that what you cannot measure you cannot manage. This is especially true in IT-based projects, which often involve significant investments and where deadlines and budgets can easily slide.

Given it has been estimated that 68% of IT projects fail to realise the benefits or outcomes they set out to achieve, it is vitally important that good measurement be in place to manage these investments and ensure that the responsible parties are accountable for the outcomes.

The US government has taken a major step towards public accountability over government IT investments with the release of the IT dashboard website.

Speaking to the Washington Post in the article, Government Launches Web Site to Track IT Spending, US Federal CIO Vivek Kundra stated that,
"Everyone knows there have been spectacular failures when it comes to technology investments," Kundra said. "Now for the first time the entire country can see how we're spending money and give us input."
Featured at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York on Tuesday, the IT Dashboard provides information on US$76 billion of US Federal IT spending, breaking it down by agency and into individual projects.

The site is more than a list of numbers. It provides interactive graphics and charts which allows visitors to identify which projects are running behind schedule or over budget - as well as those on time and on budget.

The site also makes the underlying data available in open formats, able to be reused in citizen applications and cross-referenced with other information sources to generate new insights.

While the site is undoubtably a nightmare for CIOs who have inadequate cost accounting systems or a high level of date and over-budget projects, it provides an extremely valuable role in enforcing accountability on public spending and supporting both citizens and elected officials to visualise, understand and ask the right questions about government IT investment decisions.

In other words the site aids the democratic process and encourages Federal Departments to ensure that they are running their IT projects effectively - which Kundra has already seen happen in practice,
"I talked to the CIO Council and saw the data change overnight," Kundra said. "It was cleaned up immediately when people realized it was going to be made public."
Consider the benefits to the US if government IT failure rate could be cut significantly - potentially doubling the value of every public dollar invested in IT.

I would love to see a similar site in Australia as I believe there would be similar benefits to the democratic process, transparency, accountability and improved ROI for the taxpayer dollar.

Below is a video explaining the site.

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