OMB Unveils Its Performance.Gov Website

The Bush Administration had its Results.Gov scorecard. The Obama Administration now has unveiled its Performance.Gov dashboard. Is a dashboard better than a scorecard?

The Bush website provided links to key management initiatives, such as the President’s Management Agenda Scorecard, a list and bios of top political appointees, and a set of agency examples of best practices. That site was called Results.gov. It also had a separate website that assessed the effectiveness of over 1,000 government programs, using an assessment tool called the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART). That website was called ExpectMore.gov.

Last year, the Obama Administration named its series of management reforms the “Accountable Government Initiative” and has now launched its tracking website, called Performance.gov. This new website describes and tracks the status of Administration reform initiatives via 8 “areas of focus:”

For each of these focus areas, the site provides both governmentwide information and agency-level details.

In addition to being a one-stop portal to the Administration’s “accountable government” reform initiatives and related OMB guidance, the site will eventually become the foundation for the newly-required “single governmentwide performance website” required to be created by October 1, 2012 under the recently-passed GPRA Modernization Act of 2010.

In each of the eight focus areas, the site allows users to drill down on different initiatives, many times via individual agencies’ own web pages. For example, in the Human Resources focus area, the Administration has an initiative to respect and engage the workforce by “providing training opportunities, benefits that match employee needs, promoting a healthy work-life balance, improving Federal labor-management relations, and working to ensure employees are satisfied with their work experience.”

For each of these elements, the website provides data from governmentwide employee surveys as to employee views, and then the data are provided department-by-department (scroll to bottom of page), along with a description of what each agency is doing to make progress. For example, in the Commerce Department, its employees rate their job satisfaction as increasing slightly to 68 percent and the department’s Chief Human Capital Officer, Scott Quehl, provides bureau-level scores for the Census Bureau, Patent and Trademark Office, etc.

According to OMB, the site will not be just an OMB view but a much broader view based on agency-level information. The hope is that this new ability to share different approaches to improving management capacity and best practices across agencies will allow more peer-level sharing and learning. And dashboards seem to provide a richer way of doing this than scorecards!

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What’s your take? I just put up a forum discussion but I was a little underwhelmed. Was hoping for a lot more data, better visualizations, etc

Nathan Greenhut

What do you think would be the best data to show in a government dashboard or scorecard? Also, do you think there is a need for predictive analytics to show where the trends will continue or accelerate? If you do, please let me know what you think or go to Analytics to Outcomes and feel free to start a discussion.

John Kamensky

Hi Steve — Like the recovery.gov website, ya just gotta start somewhere and let it grow! I think there’s more to come, and unlike the Recovery Board, the OMB effort doesn’t an $18M appropriation to create a bang-up website. But with the requirements of the GPRA Modernization bill kicking in next year, they’ll have a chance to build it out.

Nathan — the best data to show will be context-dependent. There is a good report the IBM Center published recently on best practices in developing government dashboards that might be helpful. As for predictive analytics; that would be nirvana but I don’t think agencies are there yet. A very few have the data and the level of sophistication to do this, mainly in law enforcement and homeland security. There was a nice piece in the New York Times last week about how Santa Cruz, CA, is sending in police before a crime.

Dan Morgan

John –

I’m thankful for the context you’ve put to performance efforts around the Federal government. I understand that PART was much maligned, but I have to say – there’s a heckuva lot more information on the dormant expectmore.gov than there is on performance.gov, and I’m wildly disappointed with this attempt at communicating performance.

Speaking as a citizen here: performance is not political. I expect more of my government, no matter who’s in office. And, yet, with each administration that blows into Washington, performance gets redefined and we make a new Web site. That’s needlessly confusing to the average citizen that doesn’t sit here in DC. Citizens shouldn’t have to memorize a new URL every time an Administration changes. And Administrations shouldn’t get to decide how transparent they get to be when it comes to performance.

More than anything, though, I’m wildly disappointed that an Administration so devoted to open data has created a Web site that isn’t powered by Data.gov. Why aren’t the underlying data sets for this scorecard/dashboard thing publicly available? Why isn’t there context around goals, baselines, and spending associated with those goals? Why aren’t agencies mandated to publish their strategic plans in StratML, versus these ridiculous 50-page PDFs? Why aren’t agencies showing which metrics they are adding/maintaining/rebaselining/discontinuing?

Beyond any of that, where are the promised High Priority Performance Goals?

At present, performance.gov is a gold-plated link farm to agency strategic plans and an advertising platform for Administration initiatives. It accomplishes absolutely nothing of what’s touted on the “performance improvement” portion of the site: http://goals.performance.gov/

If performance.gov is included in the IT Dashboard investment on the IT Dashboard, (look for “performance dashboard” http://www.itdashboard.gov/investment/cost-summary/622), then we spent $1.2M on this Web site so far. Does this really look like a $1.2M site to anyone?

John Kamensky

Robert – both links worked for me, but based on your comment, I changed it to plain, old “performance.gov” — thanks!

Dan — I’m sure the site will continue to evolve over time and your suggestions may be helpful in their prioritizing what they might focus on next! The OMB team responsible for implementing the new requirements of the GPRA Modernization Act will likely address several of your concerns about the availability of performance information over the coming year. . . .

Andreas D. Addison

I agree with Steve on this one. I like the concept and the breakdown of areas of focus, but the delivery of the Gov 2.0 mission in this website is underwhelming. Its all information that has limited visuals and tools to really look at the data and interpret and understand whats being said. At least its a good start though as I hope the feedback from the public is injected into their improvements in the future.

Nathan Greenhut

I think in order to help the website gain strength and to show how the United States performs, there should be some level of benchmarking done. This will help show how the United States stacks up and where the areas of best opportunity lie.

John – Completely agree with you about prediction in dashboards being a state of nirvana. This may take some time in order to acheive a high level of accuracy. Also, since using data is evolutionary (as you learn more you use more) just getting to the “Perfect” Dashboard, Scorecard, etc. could take some time. Potentially years. In regards to the comments about sending in police before crime starts, you may want to read the project of the week on Govloop – Memphis Police – IBM. I wrote the article and know there is a lot of progress made in this area. Also, a number of these techniques could be used across all of government in the future. There is a lot of space available to use and standardize the use of predictive analytics and forecasting in and around government.