OMB initiates FedStat to hone in on mission, management issues

The latest in a long line of data-driven reviews will give agencies a chance to compare themselves internally and externally with similar federal programs. OMB ...

By June 15, every large agency will go through the new FedStat process as part of its fiscal 2017 budget development effort.

The Office of Management and Budget kicked off its latest data-driven review with the Treasury Department earlier this week.

“We’re doing a whole set of other things around the federal government around performance management, whether it’s agency priority goals, agency strategic reviews that are mandated by the Government Performance and Results Act Modernization Act (GPRAM). How can we make these things all part of one effort? What emerged from that was FedStat,” Beth Cobert, the deputy director for management at OMB, said Monday at the Joint Financial Management Improvement Program’s 2015 federal financial management conference in Washington.

Cobert said the session Monday at Treasury had about 65 to 70 people, including the deputy secretary, the assistant secretary for management, the heads of a number of key program offices, the CXOs.

“It was a terrific conversation between that staff and the staff from across OMB focused on what are the issues we see, what are the opportunities we see and how can we act on them,” she said.

OMB introduced FedSTAT earlier this month in its 2017 budget development guidance that went to agencies. In the budget guidance, OMB says the goal is have a single, coordinated meeting covering a prioritized set of mission and management issues.

Cobert said FedStat will help agencies not just look internally at themselves, but compare their programs with like programs in other agencies.

Matrix to plot performance, cost

To that end, OMB created a tool for FedStat that lives on the website. The tool, which the General Services Administration built, helps agencies compare any component versus any other component based on different metrics, including quality scores that for the first time are established through customer satisfaction surveys.

Cobert said the point of FedSTAT is to look at programs through two lenses–one on overall satisfaction and one on cost of performance.

She said OMB developed a matrix to plot how similar governmentwide programs compare.

“We have the ability to do this and track this across all the metrics and all the functions,” Cobert said. “For data geeks like me, the ability to create charts like this is like a dream come true. You can then export them to Excel, Access and PowerPoint, so it could be a really fun way to spend the evening depending on what else you have to do. We tried to bring all of this together in this set of FedStat conversations to talk about mission performance, technology, procurement and all the dimensions. And again, trying to collaboratively, between OMB and the agencies, talk about the actions that we can take from that effort. It’s a big effort, we will be seeing more of that and we will be learning from experience this year.”

Following the FedStat meeting, OMB says in the budget guidance that it may provide additional policy on specific items for an agency’s 2017 budget submission based on what they found internally and across the government.

FedStat is the latest data-driven review from the Obama administration.

OMB initiated TechStat for troubled IT projects. Then, the White House developed PortfolioStat to bring IT and mission stakeholders together. In the middle, there is CyberStat, AcqStat, HRStat and a host of agency-specific review sessions.

But FedStat is a little bit different in the way it came out.

The FedSTAT program builds on the work OMB and GSA did last year during its cross-agency effort around benchmarking back-office systems.

From that understanding of the data, FedSTAT was born.

Shared services for hiring?

Cobert said, for the first time, the benchmarking efforts gave agencies real data and data at the right level of granularity to have meaning.

“Comparing things at the agency level, particularly for agencies like Interior or USDA or Commerce or HHS or DHS, or or or which are really a conglomeration of very different kind of components is not the most meaningful. It’s more meaningful to compare the research components within HHS with the National Science Foundation, with the Agriculture research efforts, with the research parts of Energy than it is, at times, to compare them to each other. So how can we create a tool that would give everybody a much more granular data set. We did that last year. We learned a bunch of things. We had about 45 metrics and we learned about 30 of them were pretty good and 15 of them didn’t give us a lot of insight. So this year we went back with version 2.0. We still have about 45 metrics, but slightly different ones. The metrics were set by the CFO Council, the Chief Acquisition Officer’s Council, the CIO Council and the CHCO Council.”

OMB also found that, like the other STAT sessions, they had to happen sooner than later especially to impact the budget development.

That’s why, Cobert said, OMB included FedSTAT in the budget guidance and plans to get them done by June.

The focus on data analytics and using information to make better decisions really underpins nearly everything OMB wants to do under the President’s Management Agenda. OMB detailed the four pillars of the second term PMA about a year ago.

One area where OMB and agencies have spent a lot of time on based on the data is shared services.

Cobert said 10 agencies are heavily involved in the assorted financial management shared services and she expects that number to grow. Cobert said more shared services opportunities may be on the horizon as well.

“Whether it’s around electronic commercial invoicing, Energy, Treasury, HHS and DoD have taken some advance technologies and how do we help others build on what lessons those have learned,” she said. “We are thinking about how we can move forward with hiring. We know there is work to do. Where are the parts to that we can leverage commonalities? Where are the parts to that where we can’t? There is no substitute in any hiring process for the hiring manager taking ownership of what the position is and working to make sure they get great candidates in through the process however that process is run. So how do take the parts where we can get some common and shared support and bring those together with the parts where we need dedicated and tailored attention?”

Cobert said OMB recognizes moving to shared services may sound easy, but in reality it involves a lot of change and work. So she said OMB is making these changes from several angles, including, and maybe most importantly, establishing a governance process.

OMB tasked the President’s Management Council, an oversight committee, which includes Treasury, OMB and a customer agency, with anticipating and solving problems with shared services.

Cobert said OMB also worked with agencies to develop new metrics for customer satisfaction for the first time.

Ideas to improve employee engagement

Another big focus area for OMB through the management agenda is employee engagement.

OMB, the White House Presidential Personnel Office and the Office of Personnel Management issued a memo in December telling agencies to focus more on ensuring employees have a sense of purpose to their agency’s mission.

“One of the outputs of that memo was to actually have OPM and OMB hold a joint meeting with all the senior accountable officials for engagement with all 25 CHCO Act agencies,” said Angela Bailey, OPM’s chief operating officer. “They also just [Monday] at the White House held a meeting with all 80 of us that were appointed as the senior accountable officials. There were some interesting things that we learned and some of the insight was invaluable. Some examples include providing employees with training such as project management, Lean Six Sigma, human centered design, customer service training, and you might think this has nothing to do with financial management and you don’t have the time or the money to do that. I will push back on you and tell you ‘We really need to think beyond the typical training we give within our respective fields.’ If we teach employees how to improve their processes, how to have empathy with their customers, how to understand their customers and how to manage their projects, those aren’t just skills they can use on the job, but those are skills I would argue that are a great foundation for when they take on a senior leadership role.”

Bailey said the employee viewpoint survey shows employees are tired of hearing training is important when those budgets are consistently cut.

She said another idea that came out of the White House meeting was instituting employee-nominated awards focused on workers who have displayed customer service or performance excellence.

A third example was developing concrete ways to engage employees such as having rapid improvement exercises. Employees submit ideas for cost savings and senior officials are part of the exercise and ensure the ideas are implemented.


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