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OMB to press for new benchmarks

Jun. 6, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
By STEVE WATKINS   |   Comments
Office of Federal Procurement Policy deputy administrator Lesley Field is one of three senior OMB officials leading a new push to develop performance benchmarks.
Office of Federal Procurement Policy deputy administrator Lesley Field is one of three senior OMB officials leading a new push to develop performance benchmarks. (Gannett Government Media Corp)

The Office of Management and Budget and the interagency management councils will soon be pressing federal resource managers to develop new benchmarks for managing their agencies, according to senior OMB officials.

“We talk about benchmarking in OMB now regularly,” said Mark Reger, interim controller at OMB, at the CFO-CIO Summit event June 3 in Washington. “If you’re not into the benchmarking exercise, I guarantee you, by the end of July, you will hear about it and in the worst possible way. So start to hear about it as soon as you can.”

Three senior OMB officials — Reger, U.S. CIO Steve VanRoekel and Leslie Field, the deputy administrator of federal procurement policy — said they are pushing agency executives to collect data that will enable them to set clear management objectives and measure their progress toward meeting them.

“In my space — my guess is in Steve’s and Leslie’s, too — the next big surge is data,” Reger said. “There is data that we all collect. Sharing that data and having the ability to share that data seamlessly across our processes and systems will give us a tremendous amount of information.”

VanRoekel said improved management performance comes from three main ingredients: Setting clear objectives and outcomes, putting your best people on the effort, and measuring “maniacally.”

“We have so many tools and so much availability of data,” VanRoekel said. “If you don’t have data, you really can’t make informed decisions about, ‘Is this thing working, is it not working, and how do we move forward?’ ”

The interagency councils for CIOs, CFOs, chief human capital officers and chief acquisition officers have come up with a series of benchmarks for their respective communities, Reger said.

“These are non-budgetary benchmarks. What we’re championing is that agencies’ management activities should be run around the budget, but not just around the budget. You should be measuring other things that are in the management space, and your management should be aware of those things. And you as an owner of either the CFO, the CIO or the procurement actions should be helping your management learn how to manage their agency and their scarce resources, including their people, along benchmarks,” Reger said.

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The benchmark initiative stems from the president’s second-term management agenda, outlined in the 2015 budget plan.

One of President Obama’s cross-agency performance goals is to establish cost and quality benchmarks of mission-support operations to give agency decision-makers better data to compare options, allocate resources, and improve processes.

The effort aims to develop common standards and benchmarks to measure shared service utilization, performance, and cost, and then use those to drive improvements in the performance of administrative services.

Reger cautioned federal managers at the conference not to focus too much on precise measuring when it comes to researching and setting benchmarks.

“We’re not talking about getting these things down to the penny, to some infinitesimal decimal place, to know whether they’re right or wrong.”

He cited an example 10 years ago in which the Treasury Department studied the comparative costs of electronic payments versus checks.

“We didn’t spend a lot of time and effort doing this. It was really quite easy. It cost them about a dime to make an [Automated Clearing House] payment, when it cost somewhere over 10 dollars to issue a check. We didn’t need to spend a lot of time refining that analysis. What it told us was: Stop issuing checks, start issuing electronic payments. And I’ll tell you, 10 years later, 98 percent of United States government payments are made electronically.”■

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