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COMMUNET Home

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COMMUNET  October 1999, Week 2

COMMUNET October 1999, Week 2

Subject:

Re: N-Ten discussion

From:

Richard Civille <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Fri, 8 Oct 1999 11:24:47 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (61 lines)

Some years ago as a greenhorn in DC I got bit by the benchmarking bug,
probably from all the hoopla in the early '90s with Gore's Re-inventing
Government thing. Everyone was all a-twitter over the Oregon Benchmarks
effort to tie performance outcomes to every line item in the state budget.
At that time, Oregon was the federal poster child for "government
performance." All that influenced the passage of the recent "Government
Performance Accountability Act" which requires agencies to attach measurable
outcomes to all government programs. You can imagine where that is leading.
Who's driving that train and what trainwrecks lie ahead?

This kind of performance-based benchmarking is going to hit nonprofit
organizations and public agencies of all stripes. And, we are being asked to
be more "business-like." Fine. The issue is going to be "who's driving the
train." We either establish our own benchmarking mechanisms, or they will be
established for us by others.

N-TEN is simply a way to ensure that we can proceed in a "business-like"
manner, do what industry has been doing for a DECADE and develop a common
consortia to ... among other things, take control over the manner in which
we choose to be evaluated. If we do that, we'll drive towards excellence,
encourage innovation, increase resources, we'll make the rules, and the tide
will raise all boats.

In Oregon, the political wrangling over who got to define the benchmarks,
how they were defined, how the public was able (or prevented) from shaping
them errupted into some fierce battles. And, the costs of collecting, and
reporting indicator data is not cheap. I got involved with some CPSR folks
back in 1991 in attempting to promote public benchmarks in Oregon around
Internet access. I don't recall that going too far.

Nevertheless, it is a public process, with considerable political power.
Once formalized, it can have a rather potent impact. It can also create
road-kill. N-TEN is an emerging effort to create such an open process by
using the Internet.

I remember learning about "benchmarking consortia" among the big info
industry boys back then. I recall that Mario Morino's work at Legent
Corporation had involved efforts to organize these kinds of consortia so
competitive players could measure themselves with a common yard-stick. You
can be sure the players worked hard to ensure that they all participated in
developing the standards, and that they all invested in a common nuetral
broker (the consortia) to take highly privilaged information (trade secrets,
intellectual property) from fierce competitors and gauge relative
performance among them to identify "best practices." Once this trusted forum
and framework is in place, and the players are willing to adopt a set of
principles and measures they helped devise, the effect of this benchmarking
consortia tends to to "raise all the boats" because it so powerfully drives
industry-wide innovation and excellence and helps grow the marketplace for
everyone.

I guess that I'm not sure yet, though whether the nonprofit community of
organizations invested in technology assistance and promoting the Internet
for good public use, has reached a sufficient level of maturity. Perhaps we
are simply an aberration in the marketplace, useful in serving a temporary
"gap" which is now being more effectively addressed by other sectors.

I'd invite comments from you all on this.


Richard Civille

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