Improving Mission Performance Through Strategic Information Management and Technology



Making government more effective and efficient is a national issue. But getting it to workbetter and cost less will be impossible if federal agencies cannot learn to manage with modempractices the information age demands. Today’s information systems offer the government unprecedented opportunities to provide higher quality services tailored to the public’schanging needs, delivered more effectively, faster, and at lower cost. Moreover, they canenhance the quality and accessibility of important knowledge and information, both for thepublic and for federal managers.

Unfortunately, federal agencies have not kept pace with evolving management practices andskills necessary to (1) precisely define critical information needs, and (2) select, apply, andcontrol changing information technologies. The result, in many cases, has been wastedresources, a frustrated public unable to get quality service, and a government ill-prepared tomeasure and manage its affairs in an acceptable, businesslike manner. Despite spending morethan $200 billion on information management and systems in the last 12 years, thegovernment has too little evidence of meaningful returns. The consequences--poor servicequality, high costs, low productivity, unnecessary risks, and unexploited opportunities forimprovement--cannot continue in today’s environment.

Solutions to this problem are not simple. However, several critical elements necessary tobring about management change are already in place or are being considered--from the ChiefFinancial Officers Act (to reinforce financial accountability), to the Government Performanceand Results Act (to emphasize results-oriented management), to the National PerformanceReview (a variety of initiatives to modernize federal operations), to the Paperwork ReductionAct (to improve federal information management). Additional legislative and regulatorychanges may well be required. Yet, federal executives need not wait to take aggressiveactions to improve how they manage information to affect performance.

Fortunately, solutions to seemingly intractable, complex information management problems doexist. This report focuses on what agencies can do now to improve performance by usingnew approaches to managing information and their related technologies. It is the first step ofmany toward defining what federal executives must do to modernize their operations. Itsummarizes 11 fundamental practices that led to performance improvements, both short- andlong-term, in leading private and public organizations. Our case studies of theseorganizations provide evidence that these practices make it possible to do far more with less--including significant service quality improvements, cost savings, and productivity gains. Theissue before federal executives and policymakers, then, is not whether to change federalinformation management practices, but exactly what to change and how to do it.