Labor stats office turns to new metrics tool

By this fall, an office in the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects to start using new metrics software to assess how field economists collect employee wage, earnings and benefits data from thousands of companies nationwide.

The Office of Compensation and Working Conditions plans to add the product, which launched in January, to its 5-year-old toolbox of performance measurement software, all from Cognos Inc. of Ottawa.

Already, the office uses Cognos Impromptu, Web-based software that draws and delivers graphic reports from the wage data, and Cognos PowerPlay, which analyzes the information against a cross-section of criteria such as time span and geographic region.

Cognos Metrics Manager, the new program, will send the office's upper-level managers scorecards on whether regional and national teams of economists are meeting milestones and gathering quality data from participating companies.

The office plans to increase by 30 percent the number of companies it surveys quarterly'which is now at 15,000'and officials said the software will better highlight areas that need improvement.

'It will help us spot any troubles before they develop,' said Randy McLin, computer specialist for the office's IT arm. Before, 'different people had different measures for where we were.'

The BLS organization also will upgrade its Cognos toolbox this summer to the most recent version, Series 7. This new version fuses all three software tools via an Internet portal. Prices for Cognos Series 7 range from $300 to $500 per component, and vary by user configuration and licenses.

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