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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Commentary: A new report card

Guide tells how to assess financial services
Following are edited excerpts of a Jan. 3 draft report, “Financial Services Assessment Guide,” from the Financial Systems Integration Office proposing metrics for assessing how well agencies run their financial systems. FSIO reports to the Office of Management and Budget but is located in the General Services Administration.

The financial management line of business, in collaboration with the federal financial management community, is establishing financial services metrics to assess financial services governmentwide. These metrics are designed to help identify opportunities to improve the performance and affordability of financial services provided by shared service providers and federal agencies. [Shared service providers are agencies or private companies that provide back-room functions to several agencies, under OMB’s lines of business initiative, an effort to cut costs by consolidating information technology systems across agencies.]
The financial services metrics will:
  • Enable shared service providers to make more informed judgments regarding the performance and affordability of the financial services they provide, and how they compare to their competitors.
  • Enable agencies to make more informed judgments regarding the performance and affordability of the financial services they provide in-house, how they compare with other agencies, and which shared service provider might best serve their needs as they look at service options under the financial management line of business framework.
  • Enable stakeholders, including the Chief Financial Officers’ Council, Office of Management and Budget, and financial management line of business, to make more informed judgments regarding the financial performance of shared service providers and agencies, and work with both on strategies to improve performance and affordability.
By making shared service provider and agency performance more transparent, establishing accountability for improved results, and increasing competition among shared service providers, both shared service providers and agencies will be encouraged to improve financial services.
Performance metrics will be implemented using a phased approach. Phase I will focus on defining and collecting an initial set of high-value, low-burden metrics. Detailed descriptions of each Phase I metric will be agreed to in upcoming workshops and included in the final release of the Phase I Service Assessment Guide. Phase II will focus on refining these metrics, collecting an expanded set of metrics, improving reporting capabilities and accountability mechanisms, and streamlining the collection effort.
All agencies will be required to report performance data through a single system managed by the Financial Systems Integration Office.
By May 1, shared service providers and agencies must report data for March for the Phase I metrics. Data for subsequent months must be reported within 30 days after the end of the reporting period.
Phase I metrics:
  • System availability. Measures the hours a system is available as a proportion of hours it is contractually obligated to be available.
  • Call closure rate. Measures time between the opening of an incident and its final closure.
  • Restoration time for hosting-caused outages.
  • Time elapsed since data was previously backed up, to be compared with the backup interval required according to the agency’s service standards.
  • Number of server shutdowns, such that users were unable to use the financial management system applications.
  • Number of security incidents within the past year. Totals incidents involving improper login into the servers, unauthorized access to data, or unauthorized activities performed on the system server.
  • Average time to restore mission-critical application functionality following an application failure.
  • Average report production time.
  • Planned downtime. Measures planned periods of system unavailability, during otherwise scheduled available time.
  • Average response time of security administrators to user access requests.

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