Government Using BI Software To Measure Public Diplomacy - InformationWeek
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12/3/2008
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Government Using BI Software To Measure Public Diplomacy

A State Department pilot project using Business Objects' planning and budgeting software aims to prove that overseas anti-Americanism-reduction programs are working.

The State Department's now back in good standing with the OBM on its public diplomacy measurements, but Montgomery hopes for more -- she wants to use BI efforts to demonstrate the need for additional resources.

"The dashboard shows that while public diplomacy is having a measurable and tangible impact among foreign audience members, we can further our impact if we have more resources to implement public diplomacy overseas," she said. The ability to "change the hearts and minds" of any country that leans toward anti-Americanism, she added, can happen only if "we can engage repeatedly over time." The division did a similar survey this year and expects to present its findings to the OMB within a few months.

Now the public diplomacy division has started a pilot program to get more detailed expenditure information from its various outposts around the world. Its goal is to demonstrate, for example, why youth summer camps in the Middle East require more funding than some in other countries because of higher transportation, staffing, and translation resources costs.

Montgomery said the pilot program is a delicate balance, as the recently established performance and measurement unit she runs tries to collect such data as transportation, advertising, equipment, and utilities costs, and details on staffing numbers and hours, without overburdening staffers outside the United States with data collection.

Technology is helping with the effort: Staffers are inputting the budget data into a Microsoft Excel interface in Business Objects planning application. Montgomery's unit will then develop the algorithms to show relationships between money spent and the division's six outcome measures.

The results of that work will later appear under a tab on the Public Diplomacy Impact dashboard call What-If Analysis, or what the State Department could do if it received even more funding for diplomacy efforts.

The OMB needs to recognize that BI efforts cost money, too, Montgomery said. "We're doing our best, but to do a true-blue performance budget effort requires massive amounts of resources."

If the Obama administration is serious about cutting costs from federal programs, however, the State Department's public diplomacy division may find itself in a long handout line. Surely there are many agencies that believe they can better serve the United States and its citizens, if only they had more money to do it. But the public diplomacy division is on the right track: Those responsible for cutting the checks will want to see sharp analysis and presentation of where the money goes.

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