DorobekInsider: The benefits of the federal IT “dashboard” – and the liner notes for DC’s NewsChannel 8

Tuesday - 6/9/2009, 6:24pm EDT

I’ll be on DC’s NewsChannel 8 in the 7:30p ET half-hour — their Federal News Tonight program — and I’ll be talking about dashboards.

Some of the issues we’ll be covering:
* What is a dashboard anyway? What’s new here?
* How does this work?
* Why are these useful?
* Didn’t the Federal CIO Vivek Kundra use a similar kind of IT governance process when he was the chief technology officer in Washington DC?

This grows out of a speech last week by Federal CIO Vivek Kundra, speaking at ACT/IAC’s Management of Change 2009 conference in Norfolk, VA last week. During his speech, he gave the audience the a preview of a dashboard that will track IT systems.

A peek at the Kundra IT dashboard

A peek at the Kundra IT dashboard

When he started demonstrating it, I pulled out my iPhone and snapped a photo. This was only the opening page. (I had the choice of taking notes or continuing to try and take photos. Note taking won out.)

Essentially, the dashboard is the Obama administration’s IT governance. Essentially, the dashboard will be something like the Bush administration’s scorecard, but it will be more real time and it will be more transparent. And the idea of the dashboard builds on the concept of the dashboard of your car — something that gives you data that lets you make management decisions.

Curiously, there are many people who have been somewhat flummoxed by the concept of the dashboard.

I have to imagine that this process will give additional visibility into how IT systems are progressing. Often, the data for the Bush administration score card would go disappear into OMB — and people weren’t really sure what happened to it. It was often unclear what an agency could do to improve. And people often felt as if once they got onto the OMB management watch list, it was like crazy glue — you couldn’t get off the list.

The more transparent dashboard should highlight what is working — and what isn’t.

Interestingly, Kundra used the concept of a stock market when he was the DC CTO. More from CTO Vision:

Totally new, innovative ways to manage IT portfolios were created and used to ensure all stakeholders could evaluate the technology program and better make informed decisions on when to terminate programs and where to invest more money. Chief among these innovations was an approach to portfolio management that replicates a stock market trading floor. More important, however is the relentless focus on performance and innovation to support performance. Beside rethinking these notions of governance Vivek also took measures to smartly watch/reduce/reprioritize IT costs.

So it will be interesting to see what happens.

Several resources about dashboards:

* Federal News Radio: OMB to measure IT projects through a dashboard

* Daily Debrief: Dashboards: coming soon to an agency near you?
We spoke to John Cimral, the former CEO of ProSight, which created a commercial software product for creating these dashboards. The company has since been bought by Oracle and Cimral has moved on, but we asked him for insights about how difficult it is to create these dashboards. Hear that conversation here.