A New Route to Performance Management

By Robert J. Scanlon  |  Posted 2009-01-26 Print this article Print

The Transportation Security Administration’s business intelligence system provides a powerful application to capture, manage and analyze large volumes of data across multiple databases for thousands of users.

The Homeland Security Department’s Transportation Security Administration needed new technology for capturing data and measuring performance metrics on passenger and baggage screening and on security operations at approximately 450 U.S. airports. In 2005, the TSA rolled out a new performance management system, which now runs more than 1 million reports a year for 12,000 employees and tracks more than 1,000 metrics.

Assistant General Manager Robert Scanlon and Program Manager Jim Watts in the TSA’s Office of Security Operations explain the agency’s business intelligence system, which provides employees with a variety of ways to view and understand data, with the help of customized dashboards and unique formatting options.

With the Transportation Security Administration’s performance management system, the proof is in the numbers. Today, approximately 2,500 power users check our Web-based dashboards every day, gauging key metrics and drilling down into detailed data in the system’s database. In addition, more than 9,500 other users receive weekly reports.

Our Performance Information Management System (PIMS) from MicroStrategy enables us to leverage our large quantities of data across multiple databases in order to answer questions from the TSA’s leadership and other key stakeholders. It also improves our operational efficiency and effectiveness by providing the data to track progress in meeting key goals and to support critical performance analyses.

The centerpiece of our performance management system is the Management Objectives Report (MOR), an operational balanced scorecard we use to monitor how well we’re meeting aggressive improvement goals in three key areas:

  • Security effectiveness metrics focus on accomplishing our security mission. Efficiency improvements in fiscal 2007 helped support the expansion of our security functions, and the fiscal 2008 MOR tracked the deployment of these enhanced security capabilities.
  • Employee metrics include injuries, attrition and absenteeism.
  • Efficiency metrics focus on staffing. Examples include the mix of part-time to full-time transportation security officers, total staffing, part-time shift lengths and overtime usage.

The MOR is published every two weeks using data from six separate databases. We distribute one national report, three area reports, 12 regional reports and 160 airport-specific reports. Once all data feeds have been provided, PIMS generates 176 reports, totaling more than 2,500 pages. Without our new business intelligence (BI) application, a report of this magnitude would not be feasible.

Improved agency performance in key MOR metrics helped us save a significant amount of money in fiscal 2007 and 2008. Most of this resulted from year-over-year decreases in several areas: full-time equivalents, overtime, and time lost due to injuries, attrition and unscheduled absences.

Robert J. Scanlon is a freelance writer for Baseline magazine.

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