Maximizing impact of federal websites: integrating metrics with annual goals and policies
January 24, 2024
The Open Data, Design, and Development (ODDD) team manages two public websites for the Department of the Interior at the Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR). The revenuedata.doi.gov website provides open and transparent data on how the United States manages natural resources produced on federal and Native American lands. The agency’s main website, onrr.gov is primarily used by industry to report production and pay royalties.
The ODDD team traditionally has maintained measures to justify our work and track our progress. In the beginning of this fiscal year, we made a strategic decision to reassess our metrics to:
- align more effectively with our team’s annual high-level goals.
- harmonize with policies governing federal public websites.
This decision to reassess our existing metrics plan was influenced by the Delivering a Digital-First Public Experience memo that was published in September 2023. The memo serves as guidance to federal agencies as they continue to implement the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (21st Century IDEA). Following a collective team review, we observed that the websites under our management generally align with the memo’s guidelines, but we also identified specific areas for improvement. Reviewing the memo also revealed that we could enhance our work tracking to effectively demonstrate our compliance.
In the beginning of each fiscal year, the team develops high level goals for each website. The goals are categorized into data, content, accessibility, technical solutions, usability testing, design, and outreach. The prioritization of these goals is based on their perceived value and the complexity involved in implementing them. Goals that add substantial value to users with low technical complexity are designated as high priority.
We focus our efforts on these top-priority annual goals by using a scale that considers both value and complexity which guides us during roadmap planning sessions (every 6 weeks). This approach also proves valuable during bi-weekly sprint planning sessions. In those sessions, we break down these high-level goals into specific tasks which ensures a strategic and efficient work plan.
Our previous metrics plan didn’t correlate with our established annual goals. It also did not indicate the relevance of laws, regulations and policies that govern the management of federal public websites.
In previous years, a single team member was designated as the person responsible for gathering and consolidating metrics and seeking input from other team members for data collection. However, the absence of a consistent approach and method made managing metrics a challenging task.
To correlate metrics with our annual goals, our strategy was to align measurement criteria with the distinct categories of our annual goals. To do this, we categorized our metrics to mirror the annual goals categories, which include data, content, accessibility, customer experience (involving user research and design), technical aspects, and outreach initiatives.
Within each category, we specify the relevant laws, regulations and policies that govern that specific area of work. Each category contains a detailed breakdown of our desired outcomes, the specific metrics to gauge progress towards these ultimate goals, the methodology for tracking each metric, the frequency of tracking each measure, and the assigned individual responsible for data collection.
Having each team member track at least one metric fosters our collective commitment to the metrics plan and invites valuable input on the best way to track each metric.
We’ve taken a proactive approach to simplify our metrics management. We’ve incorporated our metrics goals into the same spreadsheet used for annual high-level goals and road mapping. We plan to revisit the metrics tracking tab during each roadmap session and document available data.
By embedding the metrics tracking sheet in our work planning document, we aim to create a routine for documenting and maintaining metrics regularly. We aim to avoid the habit of deferring measurements until the quarter- or year-end.
Additionally, we are optimizing our organizational efficiency by applying labels through our project management tool. This enables us to categorize tasks based on the specific metrics goals.
We most often discuss 21st Century IDEA (2018) as a justification and guide for our team but there are numerous authorities that direct our work. We incorporate best practices in website management, user-centered design, customer service, open data and government, and accessibility into our work products to deliver a digital-first customer experience.
21st Century IDEA requires federal agencies to enhance the digital experience for government by modernizing websites, digitizing services, and improving customer experience. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) published Delivering a Digital-First Public Experience (M-23-22) this year to help federal agencies implement 21st Century IDEA.
M-23-22 specifically requires agencies to follow these requirements:
- Accessible to people of diverse abilities
- Consistent visual design and agency brand identity
- Content that is authoritative and easy to understand
- Information and services that are discoverable and optimized for search
- Secure by design, secure by default
- User-centered and data-driven design
- Customized and dynamic user experiences
- Mobile-first design that scales across varying device sizes
The President’s Management Agenda (PMA), Priority 2: Delivering Excellent, Equitable, and Secure Federal Services and Customer Experience is reflected in M-23-22 and in the following Executive Order and guidance.
Executive Order 14058 on Transforming the Customer Experience and Federal Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government (2021) directs named agencies that are deemed High Impact Service Providers (HISPs) to take specific actions to deliver better federal customer experience.
OMB further released more detailed guidance to implement this order in OMB Circular A-11, Section 280. Section 280 requires these HISPs to conduct customer research, collect user feedback, analyze the collected data, and use data driven decision making. We are not a HISP but we are committed to providing an excellent customer experience for our users, so we incorporated this guidance into our goals and metrics.
The Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act (2019) provides a sweeping, government-wide mandate for federal agencies to publish all their information as open data – using standardized, non-proprietary formats. Data.gov is the federal government’s open data site and is working to build a comprehensive repository for federal agencies and their datasets.
Accessibility is included in the newer digital guidance, but we continually reference Section 508 and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Section 508 requires federal agencies to ensure that information and communication technology (ICT) is accessible to individuals with disabilities (1986,1998). As of 2018, Section 508 adopted WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), as the federal standard. WCAG sets a benchmark for enhancing web content accessibility and is widely recognized in digital accessibility compliance. While we aim to meet the highest level of accessibility, WCAG AAA 2.2, we recognize that it can be difficult to achieve because it sets very high standards.
We also follow DOI-specific Information Management Technology (IMT) strategic priorities which are aligned to the DOI FY 2022-2026 Strategic Plan, the DOI Information Resource Management (IRM) Strategic Plan, and the FY 2024–2029 IMT Strategic Plan (drafted for publication later this year). The Information Management Technology (IMT) strategic priorities focus on 1. Zero Trust Architecture, 2. Cybersecurity, 3. Customer Experience, 4. Information Technology Modernization, 5. Information Technology Portfolio Management, 6. Data Management, 7. Information Technology Workforce. We’ve ensured that these priorities are also reflected in our goals and metrics.
As mentioned earlier in the blog, we categorized our high-level goals into accessibility, content, customer experience, data, outreach, and tech. We aligned our metrics specifically with these goals and with the authorities listed in the previous section to streamline the entire process. We have detailed tables in our Wiki that break down our metrics by category, guidance followed, goals, and what we measure.
- Strategic alignment of metrics: Ensure that metrics measures are aligned with the objectives outlined in work planning goals. This alignment serves as a compass, guiding the team towards the intended outcomes.
- Compliance and alignment with policies: Formulate metrics goals to adhere to the policies and requirements governing the specific work. This approach not only ensures regulatory compliance but also strengthens the integrity of the metrics-driven decision-making process.
- Metrics management: Implement a schedule for tracking metrics, fostering a structured reflection on work accomplished. This periodic assessment enables the team to identify areas of improvement and make informed adjustments to enhance overall performance.
- Collective team responsibility: Make tracking metrics a collaborative effort within the team. Assign a team member as the responsible person for tracking each goal, promoting a shared accountability that enhances the accuracy and completeness of metric data.
- Optimize work tracking with project management tool labels: Enhance the tracking process by leveraging labels in our project management tools. Integrating labels provides a streamlined and visual means to categorize tasks, improving overall organization and making it easy to collect metrics data.
We are currently working on collecting data and information for each category for the first quarter of fiscal year 2024 . Once the data collection is complete, we will consolidate and analyze the data to gain insights. As a team, we will meet to review the metrics, identify any obstacles or challenges, discuss potential changes or improvements, and establish baseline data values. Our aim is to leverage the detailed metrics to make informed decisions, identify areas of improvements, and formulate strategies to achieve the high-level goals.
Note : Reference in this blog to any specific commercial product, process, or service, is for the information and convenience of the public, and does not constitute endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the Department of the Interior.