From Outputs to Outcomes: Measuring the Value of Public Sector IT Investments

by J Kendall Lott

Federal government agencies make significant IT investments to modernize and increase capabilities, but too often they are left frustrated—”You built what I asked for, but not what I need”—when end users avoid using the new system or software. In addition, government agencies have a responsibility—and added pressure— to ensure that their investments provide an intangible benefit to society and citizens. But when they try to measure Return on Investment (ROI) for IT investments, there is often a sense of missing the mark, arguably because the measures themselves are not effectively guiding the requirements in the first place.

The Challenge of Accounting for Value

While nonprofits must invest any profit margin back into supporting the mission, federal agencies are funded
(not “fundraised”) so expenses are not tied directly to earnings. Oftentimes the measure used to monetize
investments is simply output—what was created and delivered—which doesn’t convert to cost savings,
efficiencies, improvements in ways of working, or most importantly, better mission enablement.

The Promise of Defining Value Through Outcomes

In a philanthropic organization, the return that matters is not simply whether an IT investment leads to
outputs that are faster, cheaper, or better, but how much the investment is supporting the mission of the
organization. Nonprofits go a step further in measuring fulfillment of purpose, better defined as Return to
Mission (RTM).

Changing the Measurement Standard to “What Matters to My Mission”

By focusing on Return to Mission, we not only quantify but qualify the value of an investment: how does it
make the organization better at providing public services and taking care of citizens, and by how much? This
paradigm shift gives federal agencies a way to isolate the outcomes of a project or program, and thereby
measure the success of the IT investment. With this new valuation standard, you can evaluate the efficacy of
your IT investment internally and for your constituents. When your investment is truly aligned with the
mission, you won’t miss the mark.

About M Powered Strategies

M Powered Strategies aligns the business needs of federal government clients with IT partners through
expert organizational change management strategy and valuation of mission-critical measures. Learn more
about how M Powered Strategies can position your IT projects for success.

Learn more by reading our full white paper, Mind the Gap: Expected vs Real Business Value from IT Modernization.