Watching You Work

Napa County, Calif., improves internal accountability using work force performance statistics.

by / November 1, 2004
Napa County, Calif., is implementing a system to monitor IT project management and give the public a glimpse of how county employees are performing.

The deployment has several goals, said Bennett Wilson, director of Napa County's Department of Information Technology Services (ITS). The main objective is to give citizens a better understanding of how the county manages public funds. Another is better aligning IT projects with the goals and objectives of the county's Board of Supervisors.

"The third goal is to give department heads and the executive team better data to make better decisions," Wilson said.

The focus on internal accountability evolved after the county replaced its financial and human resources systems in the late 1990s. County managers had a massive amount of financial and human resources data on hand, but weren't sure how to use it meaningfully. At the same time, they wanted to implement a system to ensure the county remained fiscally strong in the coming decade.

Prioritizing Investments
The county recently began using some data it collects to monitor IT projects and align them to strategic objectives. Using PeopleSoft Enterprise Project Portfolio Management and Customer Scorecard, the county developed a number of gauges that report the most important metrics of IT implementation, such as cost, approach and timeline. Napa County officials, program managers and the jurisdiction's 128,000 residents will use online dashboards to track the progress of IT projects, note successes and identify potential implementation issues.

Eventually the county will prioritize IT investments against decisions made by county leadership to support, delay or eliminate specific projects.

"We use tools that track the project and list results on the dashboards to show us where we are in relation to where we estimated we were going to be -- whether we're on target or in trouble," said Wilson.

Meanwhile Napa County employees use PeopleSoft Enterprise Time and Labor to track the time spent working on specific projects or providing public services. The county breaks that data down into performance statistics for individual employees, and plans to put these employee performance statistics on its Web site.

"Right now all this information is in paper form," said Jon Gjestvang, an ITS information systems manager. "We are looking at organizational types of performance right now, but work force performance will feed into that. We'll have a data warehouse of statistical information from work force and other areas to make up the big organizational performance picture."

The strategy also will help the county analyze individual employees' performance.

"We'll conduct more timely employee appraisals and also go back electronically, compare the employee's performance to the past and establish the next performance review objectives," said Gjestvang. "We then have all that information documented so it can be incorporated into their performance review -- whether it's good or bad."

Monitoring County Expenditures
Currently work force performance statistics are only kept by the ITS department. But the county plans to roll it out countywide and eventually place the data on the county's Web site so the public can see how the county's 1,300 employees perform.

"We're excited about being able to roll out more dashboards," Wilson said. "The real benefit will be when we can get [the data] out of the ITS and get it into the rest of the organization. We've worked it into our existing workload, so the costs haven't been very significant for us except for staffing."

Managers are not exempt from performance statistics. Their time is tracked for each ongoing project, and when they conduct reviews or perform supervisory roles, their time is tracked as part of the county's overhead.

Napa County also implemented PeopleSoft's Enterprise Project Portfolio Management and Enterprise Project Costing modules to help them bill for services by tracking staff time. Cost information is then consolidated within the county so officials can establish expenditures by department and monitor expenditures against revenues on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis.

In the past, Napa County's budget was prepared by estimating revenues and expenditures without knowing what it cost to provide specific services, said county Auditor-Controller Pam Kindig.

"We now have a mechanism to gather the information and performance metrics that we need, such as how much it costs to issue a building permit," Kindig said. "We can place that information on the dashboard of the director of our planning department so he knows how many permits he's issuing, how long it takes to issue that permit and how much it costs to issue that permit."

Over the next year, Napa County will implement additional automation applications to increase its focus on performance management, and plans to tie in risk management and cash management. But for now, tracking IT projects and work force performance are the priorities.

"It's really about breaking down all the things the county does in such a way that citizens can better understand what it costs to deliver services," Wilson said. "It also shows citizens in the county that we are truly performing for them. Plus it provides a great oversight function."
Justine Brown Contributing Writer