Monthly Archives: March 2015

Return on Investment (ROI) Model in Government – Does It Really Exists? Maybe…

The question of how government can track the success of profitless projects comes into question on a regular basis. It is easy to follow a dollar. Money leaves tracks, but how does local government leverage private practice metrics to better inform future projects and practices?

Non-profits use a different measure of value to reflect a more impact-centric formula to measuring ROI. Monetizable outcome and value have taken command of the popular imagination, yet motivation, beliefs, and ethical practice are equally important, and have defined value in the public sector. Regardless, the bottom line is investment creates more investment.

According to a 2008 report from the ROI Institute, and comprehensive measurement and evaluation process data from over 200 organizations, “Global trends in measurement and evaluation” indicate “increased focus is driven by clients and sponsors,” and “ROI is the fastest growing metric.” These two factors demonstrate that increased focus for an organization is directly impacted by the return. Impact can easily be interchanged with the public sector’s definition of value.

The relationship between return, and exterior financial support, points to an across the board paradigm shift between all sectors. Activity is no longer sufficient evidence to justify activity. Activity–whether it is a program, a project, an initiative, or the creation of a product–must be result based. In this there is a need to abandon ambiguous performance measurements, forge more social partnerships, and use efficient CRM systems that capture data. With this paradigm shift, we see government adapting to result based processes.

Dr. Jack Phillips and Patricia Pulliam Phillips note in their review, “Using ROI to Demonstrate HR Value in the Public Sector: A Review of Best Practices,” that ROI methodology is currently being used in the public sector in a multitude of ways by entities like the USA Veterans Administration, Australian Department of Defense, and U.S federal government agency. These entities are using ROI to “demonstrate program success and impact of training on educational programs,” “measure the impact of a new human resources information systems,” and to “measure the cost benefit of a master’s degree program conducted on site by a prestigious government.”

The emphasis on managing data isn’t simply a sporadic interest in government, or a trend that the public sector is suddenly jumping on board with. From a federal level the 2002 President’s Management Agenda (PMA) pinpointed five government wide goals that have influenced this contemporary line of thinking. The goals speak to the need for strategic management of human capital, competitive sourcing, improved financial performance, expanded e-government, and budget and performance integration. The PMA’s goals indicate a need to find a comprehensive formula for combining ROI metrics and analytics that support social impact, program evaluation, and quantitative data to measure both a monetary and a non-monetary return. The outcome of finding this formula would result in more than just saving a few bucks, and could potentially result in productivity and quality increases.

In an earlier document from the ROI Institute, Dr. Phillips provides an example of what this would look like:

“In a government setting, cost savings measures are available from every work group. For example, if a government agency implements a program to improve forms processing–a productivity measure is number of forms processed; the quality measure is the error rate on processing forms; a time measure is the time it takes to process the forms; and a cost measure is the cost of processing forms on a per-unit basis. Improvements in work unit performance in a government setting have many opportunities for program benefits that can be converted to monetary value.”

One of the ways that the Third Sector Organization (TSO), in the United Kingdom, has attempted to qualify social value of their sector is through developing a methodology: Social Return on Investment (SROI). The goal of SROI is to translate social, economic, and environmental benefits into monetary value. Yet the SROI isn’t necessarily applicable to individual programs and initiatives, and still prioritizes financial measurements over, say, what a social audit would result in: qualitative information combined with financial data that informs internal performance.

Ultimately, even with the strides that the TSO has made, there is still a global gap in knowledge when it comes to gauging impact on smaller scale profit-less items. A 2013, working paper from the Tellurid Science Research Center concluded on a similar note, stating:

“There is an extensive body of grey literature on impact measurement practice, however this has tended to be small-scale and boosterist in nature. The field has also suffered from a lack of theorisation of key concepts and critical appraisal of previous research, with a few exceptions. A number of studies are emerging which attempt to address this theoretical and empirical gap, but in general empirical research on impact measurement practice in the UK third sector, particularly which organizations and subsectors are undertaking impact measurement and the practices and tools they are using, is limited.”

Though there are limitations, the potential remains there for the public sector to find an all encompassing return on investment model, however no formula or practice standard exists at the moment. BUT there is still hope!

How are you measuring the ROI or SROI in the public sector? I would love to hear your feedback and suggestions.

Day in the Life of 311 Director Rosetta Carrington Lue

Dr. Stephen Covey, in his prequel to the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” “The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness,” outlines the four steps to finding your voice:

1.What are you good at?

2.What do you love doing?

3.What need can you serve?

4. And finally, what is life asking of you?

For me, the answers to these questions overlapped, and lead to my current position as the Chief Customer Service Officer of the City of Philadelphia. Check out my “Day in the Life” episode, created by Philly311 TV, and learn about how I found my voice.

“Day In the Life” series is a way to show our constituents the human side of government. By highlighting the day to day of government workers, “Day in the Life” series transparently, and artfully, demonstrates individuals connection to the communities they serve.

Planning for the Future of Digital Services in Government

blog picI was recently asked in an interview with Govloop, a government focused social network and online publication, about how the City of Philadelphia is engaging citizens through digital services. Government is changing, and the conversation is no longer about why we need digital services for engagement initiatives, but how we can use them. The key to engaging citizens through digital services relies on getting to know your audience, having a strategic plan, using a wide range of channels to communicate with your customers, and listening to feedback.

The design of our digital service platform is entirely informed by customers. Both our internal and external customers’ wants and needs determine the service we will provide. Having a clear definition of your stakeholders, and framing your relationship around the question of, “how can we make you successful,” is pivotal.

In government, we have to be cautious about spending; as a result, the voice of the community must define what we prioritize in service. Like I mentioned in my interview, “We look at everything in order to define what we want to design…you have to bring the customer’s feedback to the table, not just the internal people. You need everyone’s ideas, but specifically you need to know what your customers want and then design something around meeting their needs.”

Data trends become more crucial when determining citizen needs. As citizens adapt to mobile lives, we see a need to meet the citizens where they are. Forty percent of Philadelphians do not have access to Internet in their homes; however, most have access to mobile devices. Knowing that we have to meet our customers, social media becomes an influential tool. For example, the City of Philadelphia Philly311’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, are able to connect with communities on an inherently social platform. Social media also offers us an opportunity to observe trends; what people are talking about, and what topics generate the most conversations. Being the 5th largest City in the US, means that individual communities have needs that are specific to that neighborhood. Monitoring social media is an excellent way to manage the various voices throughout the city.

In addition to social media, surveys are crucial in getting to know one’s audience. By taking surveys, we collect data that speaks specifically to issues. However, noticing trends, leveraging social media, and collecting data, means nothing if that information isn’t being put into action. Planning a communication strategy is imperative to creating a mainframe for the dialogue. Once you know what is working, creating a blueprint of how you got there, you can apply that template to other initiatives.

Find out more about what’s trending in government digital services, here:https://www.govloop.com/resources/future-digital-services-five-trends-transforming-government/