Amin Mehr is the Program Manager for Performance.gov and Lauren Anderson is a member of the Eagle Hill Consulting team that supports the Performance.gov site.
When Performance.gov re-launched on February 12, it became one of hopefully many websites to use the full suite of the Technology Transformation Services’ (TTS) products and services, from hosting to design. Our team identified four key benefits of using the stack, which we’ll explain below. But first, some background on Performance.gov.
What is Performance.gov?
Performance.gov is a federally-mandated performance management reporting website about the federal government’s efforts to cut waste, streamline government, and improve performance to key stakeholders such as the public, agencies, and members of Congress. It hosts an array of information regarding the mission of the federal government as a whole, including cross-agency priority goals that are updated regularly to promote transparency in government.
Why did Performance.gov need a new website?
In collaboration with the White House Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Shared Solutions and Performance Improvement (OSSPI) decommissioned and archived the legacy Performance.gov in an effort to embrace federally-mandated IT modernization efforts. The team launched a long-term strategy to cut costs and better serve stakeholders through easier navigation for end-users and improved information gathering capabilities. In a short timeframe, OSSPI needed to build a site to meet the legislative mandate and provide important federal performance data to stakeholders.
Why did the team use the TTS technology stack?
To build a website on a relatively short timeline with limited resources, the team enlisted TTS to leverage their existing technology tools.
As a result, when the site launched, Performance.gov became one of the first federal websites to use the entire TTS technology stack. The technology stack includes:
- cloud.gov, which offers a fast way for federal agencies to host and update websites, APIs, and other applications
- U.S. Web Design System, which provides common user interface and visual styles
- Federalist, which provides agencies with an easy way to publish government websites
- Search.gov, which provides a robust search function for federal websites
- Digital Analytics Program, which offers advanced, easy web analytics to track user interactions with a federal site and to gain insights on how to improve the user experience.
The team found four key benefits associated with using the TTS technology stack:
- Save time and money. By using the TTS technology stack, the GSA and the federal government saved time and money that would have been spent on procurement, discovery, and research. We were able to cut our costs by more than half, which in a landscape of legacy operations and maintenance spending makes the product all that more worthwhile.
- Avoid creating from scratch. These products and services are available so that federal agencies don’t need to build from scratch. For us, this meant we didn’t have to spend months creating any custom code. Since our team sits in the Office of Shared Services and Performance Improvement, we felt it made sense for us to use the same shared services we promote so we could confidently recommend other agencies and programs take a similar approach.
- Gain an invested partner. GSA not only provides support to other agencies, but uses the products for its own projects. When using TTS products, we were able to turn to a larger community of users to get quick answers to complex questions.
- Open source code makes projects, and teams, more resilient. The team built Performance.gov with open source code, which helps the site benefit from and contribute to a broader ecosystem of talent and information. Other development teams, including state and local agencies, can comment on or replicate our code. Other developers could also help us by adding code or functionality to Performance.gov. An open source build also insulates the success of the site from changes to the development team. Information is not proprietary, so the team can easily onboard and offboard team members. By the way, here is our GitHub page in case you want to check out our code.
Finally, within days of launching Performance.gov, the team saw a significant increase in meaningful visits to the site, and we’ve continued to see an upward trend from our previous legacy site. An uptick in web metrics and positive reactions from our external stakeholders have validated our approach.
What else should development teams consider?
While there are many upsides to using the TTS technology stack, federal development teams should explore all of the pros and cons to decide if it’s the right fit. For example, it’s important to note that Federalist is designed for static websites and doesn’t function as a traditional content management system. Back-end users will need to become familiar with GitHub, which is achievable but requires a learning curve.
If you’re interested in learning how your federal agency or project can replicate this approach, please contact Amin Mehr, Program Manager for Performance.gov, at firstname.lastname@example.org.