Using Dashboards to Cut Bad Projects

Business dashboards enable management transparency which in turn allows the entire user base to “call out” unacceptable levels of performance. We are seeing this in a major way with the Federal IT Dashboard. Since the launch, there has been quite a bit of focus on the “red” indicators showing up on the dashboard charts for the various agencies. Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs, Eric K. Shinseki has taken major action in halting bad projects – probably to head off negative press. And of course, unless the VA is the only government department with problematic I.T. projects, watch for other departments to cancel their projects as well.

In a blog post titled “Evidence-based Decisions“, Federal CIO Vivek Kundra announced that the new Federal IT Dashboard has identified 45 information technology projects that are being immediately halted. These projects are either so behind schedule or over budget that they cannot continue until a determination is made as to whether or not they are worth it.

The 45 projects belong to the Veterans Affairs Department and total $200 million in budget. The worst project identified is over 17 months late and 110% over budget.

Here’s a screenshot of the top page of the dashboard showing the Veterans Administration bar charts. Notice all the red in the bottom bar:

Veterans Administration IT Dashboard

These decisions come about 2 weeks after the launch of the Federal IT Dashboard. Kundra credits the role of the I.T. dashboard in identifying the problem projects, but cautions that a business dashboard is not a substitute for good management.

“We were able to catch these contracts, in part, thanks to our new tool, the ‘IT Dashboard,’ which helped shed light on the performance of projects across the federal government,” Kundra wrote.

If you are just hearing about the IT Dashboard for the first time, it allows you to see which IT projects are working and on-schedule (and which are not), offer alternative approaches, and provide direct feedback to the chief information officers at federal agencies.

Given the size and complexity of the federal IT portfolio, the challenges we face are substantial and persistent. The dashboard is not a substitute for good management. Its value comes from leaders who use the information to make tough, evidence-based decisions on the future of IT investments.

The VA’s announcement is part of a broader effort by the Administration to make the federal government more transparent and to boost accountability and drive better performance. From IT accountability to personnel and contracting reforms, the administration is committed to providing better value, efficiency, and effectiveness for taxpayers’ dollars.

Hubert Lee
The Dashboard Spy

PS. New Book on Dashboards: Business Dashboards: A Visual Catalog for Design and Deployment

Federal Dashboard Reaches 20 Million Hits in 2 Weeks

In a recent Dashboard Spy post about the Federal Dashboard (see, I lauded the efforts of Federal CIO Vivek Kundra, especially his recent work with the IT Dashboard. Some of you probably thought I was a bit over the top with all my gushing praise about the dashboard and my claim that this ushers in a new level of user consciousness about business dashboards.

Well, the buzz just keeps on growing, and I’m more in love with the IT Dashboard project than ever!

Remember this picture I showed of a certain user taking a look at the Federal IT Dashboard?

Obama Dashboard

Well, it turns out that that President Obama wasn’t the only dashboard user. In the 2 weeks since the launch of the IT dashboard, there have been over 20 million hits. It’s too bad that “hits” as a measure is still being used, because I’d really like to know how many unique visitors there were to the dashboard.

Anyway, my point is that this business dashboard project is extraordinary not only because of the visibility it brings to the government IT spending metrics that it reports on (we know how much we can use greater management transparency!), but because of the incredible visibility of the project itself. The fact that the President of the United States is one of the users giving your dashboard the once over is probably quite thrilling. It brings a whole new meaning to “let’s pay a little attention to the user interface!”.

Also, I’m sure that, once in a while, you worry about your application’s peak loads and how it’s handling a surge of users. Well, how would you like to worry about the infrastructure issues for this project? I suppose that we’re talking world class infrastructure and maintenance.

The other interesting item I wanted to bring to your attention was that the Federal CIO has been blogging about the dashboard and is asking for your feedback and input on future functionality. Check out the IT Dashboard Blog and this statement from Kundra:

For anybody just joining us, the“IT Dashboard” is a new, one-stop clearinghouse of information that allows anyone with a web browser to track federal IT initiatives and hold the government accountable for progress and results. A part of, the dashboard allows you to see what IT projects are working and on-schedule (and which are not), offer alternative approaches, and provide direct feedback to the chief information officers at federal agencies – in effect, keeping tabs on the people who are responsible for taxpayer dollars for technology.

Leading up to the launch, we tapped the brightest and most innovative minds from Federal agencies, Congress, independent oversight organizations, and the private sector as we built the IT Dashboard. Over 400 federal employees joined our daily open house sessions for a hands-on opportunity to try the Dashboard, check their data, and suggest improvements. Until July 31, CIOs can submit investment evaluations and update other investment data. During this time, you will notice that the site will continue to be in “beta” as we deliver additional key features.

But we can’t simply make this an exercise in federal agency reporting. That is why we started this blog. We want to hear from you about what works and what doesn’t with the site. Is there a more innovative approach that an investment should consider? Does the contract data look incorrect to you? Is there an application that we should add? This is a site to serve you, and to do that, we need to hear from you.

So bookmark this blog, and come back to us often. There is a lot happening over the next few weeks as we review the entire federal IT portfolio, assess the performance of investments, identify areas to save money, improve performance, and share best practices.

Tags: Obama dashboard, federal dashboard, federal it dashboard, IT dashboard

Federal IT Dashboard

Exciting Dashboard News from The Dashboard Spy: New Federal IT Portfolio Spending Dashboard Set to Usher in New Level of Business Dashboard Adoption.

Forgive my excitement, but in the course of carefully studying thousands of business intelligence dashboards for the Dashboards By Example blog and various Dashboard Spy publications, I’ve become very confident in my ability to predict which dashboards will truly become “game changers”. Whether because they contain especially compelling data visualizations, are the first ones to “mash up” certain data sources, or come to market with a startlingly new level of user interface design, certain dashboards launch to great acclaim and user acceptance. Some dashboards will achieve a high level of usage and acclaim simply because of the size of the sponsor organization. In this case, when the U.S. government builds and promotes a major dashboard project to publicize the accomplishments of 30 agencies, it is a really big deal.

The new U.S. Federal I.T. Dashboard is now available at Right out of the gate, this business dashboard has ranked on page 1 of the Google search engine and has enjoyed quite a bit of publicity. It is well worth checking out by all business intelligence dashboard designers, users and stakeholders. There is no doubt that this particular dashboard will introduce a great number of new users to the dashboard paradigm.

In the period from June 1, 2009 through June 29, 2009, nearly 400 Federal employees from over 30 agencies tested the I.T. Dashboard. The response within the various agencies was reported to be huge.

Another important point about this dashboard: I’m told that the project went from concept to action in a 90 day period. And keep in mind that this is a government project! I am astounded. Doesn’t this speak volumes about the state of dashboarding technology and best practice?

Let’s have a look at what all the excitement has been about. First we’ll examine a video about the Federal IT Portfolio Dashboard, then look at some dashboard screenshots.

Here’s the video:

When you visit the IT Dashboard at, make sure to spend a few minutes watching the home page. Note how the charts present themselves. They “flip” through a series of different metrics without user intervention. Almost like watching TV, the viewer can simply preview various KPIs right on the home page’s top graphic.

Here are some screenshots of the IT Dashboard.

IT dashboard Department of Human Services

Department of Energy IT Spending Dashboard

For more data views and the lower level pages of this dashboard, please visit the Federal IT Portfolio Dashboard.

Update: This dashboard has created quite a bit of buzz. Here was some coverage of the unveiling of the IT Dashboard by National CIO Vivek Kundra. I bet you didn’t know that the United States had a Chief Information Officer!

Here’s a review video that discusses the Federal IT Dashboard:

As mentioned in the above video, this dashboard project was spearheaded by Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra. He appeared in this YouTube video answering questions from citizens on facebook:

PS. Here’s a happy IT Dashboard user. Recognize him? Yes, it’s President Obama using the federal dashboard! Talk about making sure you keep your dashboard user happy!

President Obama using the Federal Dashboard


Hubert Lee
The Dashboard Spy

Tags: Federal Spending Dashboard, Federal Agency IT Spending, Government Transparency Dashboard

Federal Government Agency Program Management Office Dashboard

Update: New Federal Dashboard compiles I.T. Spending metrics from over 30 federal agencies. See screenshot at that link or watch the Federal Dashboard Video.

Government agencies, both civilian and defense, have been under intense pressure to show value in their projects and alignment of programs with their charters and goals. This has lead to a swell in implementations of PMOs and their associated business intelligence systems. Here are a couple of quick enterprise dashboard screenshots of one agency’s Program Management Office dashboard. Sorry for the lack of detail. These pmo dashboards seem to be based on the Niku (Clarity) product.

Government PMO dashboard

Federal PMO Dashboard

So who is the Dashboard Spy? No one really knows, but his growing collection of enterprise dashboard screenshots has captured the imagination of the executive dashboarding community. From excel dashboards and custom-built business scorecards, to xcelsius and flex-based visualizations, the dashboard screenshots at serve both as nuggets of inspiration and warnings of what not to do on an enterprise dashboard. These hits and misses will enlighten and entertain. Technology-neutral, and always business-driven, the Dashboard Spy website is the place to go to learn about the latest enterprise dashboard packages. Check out the Dashboard Spy’s latest recommended book, Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data

The Dashboard Spy Business Intelligence Dashboards Blog