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