The IBM Center for Business in Government has issued a report on report on Dashboards in government:
In its summary:
One approach the Obama administration has latched onto to make sense out of the deluge of data is the use of on-line “dashboards” of performance data that track the key performance metrics of various federal agencies and programs. The administration has touted the benefits of dashboards as a way of organizing and filtering performance data so it makes sense to decision makers so they can understand and act on it.
One example has been the Federal Information Technology Dashboard, showing the status of dozens of technology investments across the federal government. The Obama administration claims that the dashboard, along with regular review meetings using the dashboard data, has led to decisions saving $3 billion in technology spending and cutting in half the delivery time of technology projects.
Agencies across government are now exploring how they can develop dashboards for their operations, as well. Agencies profiled in this report include the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Four important lessons, according to the site:
- Data quality is key to the credibility of dashboard performance measures. Quality is being built into data, Ganapati says, by using “standardized data definitions and training of key agency personnel.” He says adopting a standard schema such as the Extensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) for financial dashboards “would enhance data quality and reporting efficiency.”
- Resources for best practices are necessary in the design and use of dashboards. A website, such as usability.gov, for standardizing dashboards or being a repository for best practices would be a useful resource for agencies.
- Performance measures should reflect organization goals. Measures should be aligned with agency goals and evolve “in response to different audience needs.”
- Dashboards are only tools: effectiveness depends on their use. Dashboards can be highly effective in helping agency leaders visualize and interpret performance data from multiple sources, but there has to be a clear effort to ensure they are used by internal decision makers. When used for external accountability purposes, such as recovery.gov, “both the dashboard performance measures and the underlying data need to be publicly accessible” to ensure organizational credibility.
David Udell, at the National Center for Access to Justice, is heading in the same direction with his Justice Index.
By setting benchmarks, identifying best practices, and publishing policies and data, the Justice Index can help to empower judges, court administrators, other government officials, journalists, academics and activists in their respective efforts to improve our justice system. Of course the Justice Index is only part of the solution and cannot guarantee results in and of itself. But, by making clear the hidden functions of our justice system, the Justice Index is a reform project that will make a difference.
It has great potential for transparency and innovation.
Moreover, the changes in LSC data collection could help lay the groundwork for such transparency and reporting.