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FCW : May 30, 2013
22 May 30, 2013 FCW.COM GWAC Dashboards: Business intelligence for agencies The General Services Administration's GWAC Dashboards allow agencies and vendors to view information on governmentwide acquisition contracts, including task-order obligations, number of awards and the vendors that have been issued task orders by each agency. That information was hard to get before the dashboard was launched and in some cases required a Freedom of Information Act request. The GWAC Dashboards, which are updated nightly, help vendors "better manage their contracts, leverage data to form business intelligence about their target accounts, and develop marketing plans, " according to a GSA spokeswoman. They can also help agencies conduct market research, evaluate task-order activity and vendor capability, and review small-business activity. In the near future, GSA plans to improve download times and enhance the dashboards with more datasets and side-by-side chart displays. one central plan, and holds agencies accountable for the goals set through last year s process." The rst reports --- agencies Information Resource Man- agement Strategic Plans --- were due to OMB on May 15. Transparency helps The IT Dashboard offers more insight into why a program is struggling than the watch lists of the past, which were incomplete and offered little transpar- ency, said David Powner, director of IT management issues at the Government Accountability Of ce. "The dashboard has transparency, and transparency doesn t hurt," he said. In addition to making OMB s and Congress IT oversight duties easier, the detailed data has bolstered the authority of agency CIOs, who are eval- uated on their IT management success. "There were some CIOs who, when the dashboard was rolled out, didn t have access to the data they needed" to send to OMB because they weren t involved in the IT investment process, Powner said. That had to change, which meant giving CIOs the appropri- ate authority and streamlining internal processes. Nevertheless, Powner said there is room for improving the IT Dashboard. Indeed, many experts have criticized the accuracy and completeness of the data on which the dashboard is built. "The chatter is that the data is not very good, but it s not an excuse not to make it good," he said. "We think agencies need to keep working on it." For example, Powner testi ed at a House hearing in January that the Defense Department had reported that it had no high-risk IT programs when in fact it had many. The GAO report on which Powner s testimony was based warned that "DOD is masking signi - cant investment risks...and has not delivered the transparency intended by the dashboard." "We want to continue to push for transparency and better mechanisms," he said. "The dashboard, although far from perfect, is one of the better mod- els because it allows for comparisons. It s not only what is spent, but are we getting the right return on investment and who is accountable." Larry Allen, president of Allen Fed- eral Business Partners, said accuracy is always an issue when data is pulled from multiple sources, something the Federal Procurement Data System amply demonstrated. "You end up with an unclear picture," he said. Agencies across government collect and report their procurement data to FPDS, but it has been criticized in the past for containing inaccurate or incomplete information. To improve the IT Dashboard s accuracy and value, OMB has added submission validations and dynamic data quality reports. Those tools help agencies correct their submissions or address issues by agging potentially inaccurate information, such as unreal- istically high or low values for certain data elds, according to OMB. What dashboards can't do For a dashboard to have real value, the garbage in/garbage out rule applies to more than the actual data provided, said Roger Baker, former CIO at the Department of Veterans Affairs. It determines what data you collect in the rst place. He said agency leaders need to ask themselves what they are measuring, "and is it something that is really essen- tial to your business? The dashboard is of use when it is targeting informa- tion that you can use to manage your business." VA, which hosts multiple IT dash- boards, has a program management IT dashboards
May 15, 2013
June 15, 2013