Section III: A Public Value Framework for Government IT Assessment
D. What is the Investment? Linking IT to Goals and Business Processes.
1. Links to the Business of Government
This analysis of public value generation requires identifying how the IT investment project links to government goals and activities. IT investments generate value in relation to the policy and administrative setting in which they operate. The goals and business processes provide links between how the technology operates and the interactions with stakeholders that generate value. The analysis, therefore, includes linking the investment to the relevant government goals, operations, and business processes.
This linking process is more complex than it may appear, requiring a comprehensive and reasonably detailed picture of government goals and operations. Such a picture will ensure that all the relevant links between the technology and business processes will be identified. Many government IT investments have potential links across many agencies and processes. The Washington State Digital Archives, for example, collects records from hundreds of state and local agencies. The Merkava project in Israel will eventually involve all government agencies. The Pennsylvania IES supports human resources management, budgeting, and other administrative functions for all executive agencies in the Commonwealth. The relevant business process setting of an IT investment, therefore, can be quite extensive. To deal with this contingency, this part of the framework is based on just such a comprehensive picture. This is a useful analysis strategy because it helps draw attention to value generating aspects of the investment that might be missed because they result from indirect effects or complex interactions across many agencies or processes.
The first part of the linking takes advantage of the comprehensive integrated descriptions of government goals and processes that are found in the enterprise architecture work currently underway for US and other governments. For our purposes here, the most useful comprehensive description of government processes is in the US Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA) Business Reference Model (seen in Figure 10).(6) With some minor modifications, the components in this FEA model can be used to identify the business operations and general goals of an IT investment in most government agencies. Local governments, for example, do not typically have defense and national security operations. The supporting documents that form part of the Business Reference Model contain descriptions of each of the components. These descriptions can be used to clarify meaning and help identify which components are linked to a particular IT investment.
While comprehensive, this FEA model is not the only enterprise architecture model that may be used. There are a number of comparable models or business process frameworks that could work as well, such as those developed for the EU, the UK, Hong Kong, and Malaysia.(7) The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) has an enterprise architecture model, adapted for US state governments, that may also be used. The European Commission also supports additional framework activity through the Athena Project, which has published similar documents.(8)
Using this model, the analysis proceeds by identifying where the IT investment links to government business. This linking can be based on the new technology's stated goals, organizational location, and intended operational profile. The detailed descriptions of each Business Reference Model component are useful in identifying these links. If needed, those responsible for the analysis can enlist a team of IT and operational experts to help ensure all relevant links are identified.
Figure 10. Elements in the FEA Business Reference Model
To illustrate how to use the model, we marked several of the components in Figure 10 with asterisks. The asterisks mark an example of the business links we identified for an IT investment project in the Merkava case study used for this framework: an online reverse auction system for procurement. The agency conducting the online auction sets the terms of a procurement, publishes them, and qualifies vendors as potential bidders. At a predetermined time, a Web site is opened for bidding. All qualified vendors can then submit authenticated price bids to a public space on the site, visible to all other vendors. The bidding continues until the low bid remains unchanged for a predetermined time (e.g., five minutes), closing the auction. The low price bidder wins the contract. The entire auction takes place in public view and is recorded in detail.
For an illustrative example, consider the procurement of new police radios for a law enforcement agency. Based on the nature of the e-procurement system and the component descriptions, we see it as linked to the five marked components in Figure 10: law enforcement, financial management, supply chain management, direct service to clients (vendors), and planning and resource allocation.
2. Links to Business Processes
Making further links to business processes means connecting the larger goal or function from the Business Reference Model to specific activities identifiable as business processes. For this step, picking the appropriate level of detail is important. Choosing too general or too fine-grained a process analysis will tend to obscure stakeholder interactions that are necessary to identify public value. For this step in the analysis, we recommend another enterprise architecture tool: the Zachman Framework.(9) The descriptions in the first two rows of the Zachman Framework (Scope and Business Model) are a good guide for the most useful level of detail.
This method identifies several business processes for the e-procurement example. They include:
- determining communication needs for the law enforcement agencies
- budgeting for the procurement
- recruiting and qualifying vendors
- conducting the auction
- paying the vendors
The list could be extended for further analysis by adding deployment of the radios, training for users (human resource management), and evaluation of the impacts of the new radios use in the agencies and business processes where installed. To keep this example manageable, however, we are limiting the analysis to the processes listed below. The components identified from Figure 10 are linked to the business processes in the rows of Table 1.
Identifying the business processes leads to two key questions: (1) How does a business process generate increased public value? and (2) For whom? A way of answering the first question is recorded in the third column of Table 1. Our analysis of public value generating mechanisms is shown in the discussion of value impact mechanisms below.