PE CoE Week: Sarah Brewer on From Outputs to Insights: Getting the most out of administrative data

My name is Sarah Brewer and I am a performance management specialist for Deloitte Consulting LLP. I help federal leaders design and build their performance management capability to improve their ability to lead, manage and communicate program performance.

Over the past several years, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has provided guidance to improve the use of administrative data to provide evidence of program performance and guide data driven decision making.  Administrative data is the data government programs collect through the implementation and management of their program activities. Despite these efforts, many program managers have struggled to turn this data into meaningful insights.  As a result program managers continue to implement their programs without using the administrative data they have available.  To get better use of administrative data, program managers should consider investing in three actions:  (1) Defining Meaningful Metrics; (2) Setting Performance Targets; and (3) Conducting Performance reviews.

Lesson Learned: Define meaningful metrics. With specific data capturing the management and implementation of the program implementation, it often becomes overwhelming for program managers to select which of the many possible metrics are the most meaningful.  As a result, program managers need to prioritize metrics that measure activities that they are intentionally trying to change.  For example, if a communications campaign is trying to reach out to the public, it is important that it prioritizes metrics that measure its outreach.

Rad Resource: Check out Deloitte’s one-pager for tips on how to identify specific priority areas and focus on measuring and monitoring those metrics.

Lesson Learned: Set performance targets. Administrative data on its own reflects what the program is doing but not how well the program is doing it.  As a result, program managers need to set targets to define performance.  For example, if the communications campaign reaches one person it achieves its broad goal of ‘outreach” but when the program manager sets the goal of reaching 10,000 people in one month – it turns the metric into a performance target.

Hot Tip: Insights are gleaned from administrative data when program managers set expectations on where they want to be and measure whether or not they have reached the performance target.

Lesson Learned: Conduct performance reviews. Finally, to turn administrative data into insights program managers should conduct quarterly performance reviews that brings the program manager together with the leadership team to discuss the prioritized metrics and performance against their targets.

Hot Tip: Only through conversation can leaders discuss what is working and what is not working and identify ways they can help improve areas of underperformance and capitalize on leading practices.

The American Evaluation Association is Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Program Evaluation Center of Excellence (PE CoE) week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from PE CoE team members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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