Austin puts performance data online

'We have had a ton of interest from other governments' in the project to post the city's performance statistics online.

'Mike Erwin

Austin, Texas, has posted its report card online.

The city's government for years has used the management reporting tool Managing by Results to gather data about the performance of city agencies for evaluation and budgeting. But until recently, only city employees received the information.

Last fall, Austin city managers launched a program to take their performance data public. After evaluating the system, city managers rolled it out to the Web. It gives a precise view of how well the city government is doing its job and provides officials feedback on their performance.

Performance evaluation

Mike Erwin, corporate budget manager for Austin, said city employees built the Oracle database in which the information resides. The system exports the data via a flat file delivered in a ColdFusion Web application.

The system measures the activities of dozens of city agencies and offices and how they stack up against performance goals.

For example, the databases evaluate how the city's IT Support Services program provides network connectivity, computer hardware and software support, and IT planning to agencies.

The database includes two measures of performance for the IT Support Services program: the percentage of problems resolved at the time of an incoming call and the total number of computers supported.

The agency has resolved 80 percent of calls on the spot so far in fiscal 2004 and supported 300 computers.

The database also tracks the activities of the city's data center. The system reports the percentage of time the city's midrange systems are available and divides the cost of data center support by the number of hours the systems are available to determine the hourly cost.

Performance figures have fluctuated since 2001, with midrange systems available from 98 percent to 100 percent of the time and costs ranging from $78.88 per hour to $29.12 per hour.

'We have had a ton of interest from other governments' in the project to post the city's performance statistics online, Erwin said.

'We have also found it to be a very good tool for the city employees,' he said.

Posting the information online has also made it more easily available to Austin's elected officials, who formerly received print reports.

'What we are looking at doing in the coming year is to put monthly and quarterly measures [online] for fiscal 2004 and fiscal 2005,' Erwin said.

Austin assures the quality of the performance data by conducting audits of the reports and requiring agencies to do self-assessments.

'We are trying to provide ease of access to this information,' said Pete Collins, director of Austin's IT department. 'Now anybody can look at it.'

Measuring performance isn't the only challenge the system addresses, Collins said. City officials want to track metrics that make sense. 'We develop performance measures that actually mean something,' he said.

City managers are much more likely to receive media criticism for concealing performance information than for providing it to the public, Erwin said.

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