Innovation metrics can help CIOs improve performance

A new IBM Center for The Business of Government report says CIOs lack understanding for innovation metrics, which could grow their operations if used.

Information technology is making real-time data more readily available. Through dashboards, scorecards and heat maps, chief information officers can make more informed decisions faster. But things like performance and innovation of the CIO shop itself are harder to measure.

Kevin Desouza, an associate dean at Arizona State University’s College of Public Service and Community Solutions, found in a new report from the IBM Center for The Business of Government that CIOs lack metrics on non-technical elements like an agency’s innovation capacity and its overall health as a unit.

“In terms of regular day to day projects or regular infrastructure, CIOs have a whole suite of metrics that they use to computer performance,” Desouza said on the Federal Drive with Tom Temin. “When CIOs have to capture the performance of their innovative projects or their innovative personnel, they struggle quite a bit.”

Desouza interviewed more than two dozen public sector CIOs to understand what they considered “missing metrics”, what challenges they face filling those gaps and what resources make up a balanced portfolio of metrics to manage their organizations.

Kevin Desouza
Kevin Desouza

Innovation is key

For most agencies, measuring innovation metrics is a pitfall.

Innovation is what agencies and organizations use to modify their operations, improve services, save money, and increase efficiency. Despite their potential,  these types of metrics “are in their infancy largely because of CIOs’ need to maintain current operations and their lack of time to grow their operations,” Desouza said,  in his report.

The report found that CIOs want to use IT toward innovation in their operations and viewed this as a necessary undertaking, but they just aren’t sure how to do it.

Desouza listed a number of example metrics agencies and organizations can use to measure innovation, including  the number of projects in which  IT is playing a leadership role, the project success rate and the number of awards an operation receives from other entities like magazines and  forums.

Project management is a strength

Desouza’s report found that CIOs already have a deep understanding of project management metrics and how to measure them.

He said metrics CIOs considered critical are traditional project performance measures such as the number of projects completed on time and on project, employee productivity, project schedules and project budgeting among others.

“The reason being is 90 percent of the work that gets done in an IT organization moves to the project vehicle,” Desouza said.

Operations management keeps the wheels turning

Operations management metrics give CIOs and other IT managers situational awareness of their department’s performance, resources, personnel and strategic activities and provide a gauge for the overall “health” of the organization, Desouza said.

“How available are your IT applications, how well are they being protected, and how are your access controls?” are questions Desouza said CIOs should be asking when it comes to keeping their systems healthy.

By utilizing all three categories of metrics, Desouza said CIOs can better monitor their organizations’ IT performance and help them grow effectively.

“As CIOs become more creative in capturing the outcomes and the impacts of their innovations, that is when they will be able to trace more seriously the risks and also the time required to actually seek returns from an IT project,” he said.

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