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The National Library of Australia: The better practice in performance reporting

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The National Library of Australia operates under the Australian Department of Communications and Arts, while being subject to the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, which provides the reporting and accountability framework for the Australian Public Sector.

Referenced in the Australian National Audit Office’s “Better Practices in Annual Performance Reporting”, the National Library of Australia is one of the governmental entities in the Australian territory that values its performance measurement and reporting frameworks.

Having successfully integrated the more modern concepts of technological facilitation and content digitization, the strategic framework of the National Library of Australia formally states its single most important outcome:

“Enhanced learning, knowledge creation, enjoyment and understanding of Australian life and society by providing access to a national collection of library material.”

As per a better performance reporting framework, the National Library of Australia reveals the following:

  1. Strategic directions that lead to the desired outcome;
  2. Major initiatives that enable each of the Library’s strategic directions;
  3. Key Performance Indicators to reflect on performance;
  4. Deliverables to emphasize end results and achievements.

library

It is rather hard to provide a robust outline of performance through reporting, but the National Library of Australia manages to stick to the essentials: a concise presentation of the Library’s governance and accountability framework, a precise specification of strategic directions, a SMART set of key performance indicators to measure performance, a clear mention of deliverables and initiatives for improvement.

Scorecards and Dashboards are used to enhance the available data and provide a clear picture on the performance of the organization. Although not standardized, performance management terminology within the National Library of Australia is well understood and coherent:

  • Strategic directions start with verbs;
  • Initiatives start with nouns;
  • KPIs are clearly formulated;
  • Measurement units are available for each KPI;
  • KPI Targets are specified;
  • Actual KPI results are presented in relationship to the set target.

library

However, there are always recommendations that may be welcomed in improving the way performance is reported on. In the case of the National Library of Australia, we stopped at the following:

  • An input – process – output – outcome approach would better benefit the emphasis of deliverables;
  • Quantitative and qualitative data, efficiency and effectiveness criteria, leading and lagging KPIs, objective and subjective measurements, should be identified and balanced in order for the performance report to provide a comprehensive, level-headed view on performance;
  • All of the strategic directions should be supported by KPIs and underpinned by initiatives; beyond incorporating a strategic direction, “Organizational excellence”, must be defined and then measured;
  • Financial and Customer-related KPIs are revealed in a separate Scorecard entitled: “Cross-cultural Agency Key Performance Indicators”, that would be better consolidated with the aid of internal process KPIs, selected for the strategic directions; although mentioned, the Balanced Scorecard approach provides more of a background support framework for an integrated approach towards performance reporting;
  • Perspectives within the “Cross-cultural Agency Key Performance Indicators” Scorecard would be better replaced with objectives that further support the implementation of the organizational strategic directions;
  • Forward estimates are more reliable when they also mention the analytical technique used for prediction, as well as the margin for error taken into consideration.

Table 3.8: Cross-cultural Agency Key Performance Indicators, 2014–15

library

The most important strength of performance reporting within the Public Sector is that it provides insight into the execution of governmental plans and budgets. It encourages public entities to take on the responsibility of efficiently and effectively managing their resources. Performance reporting makes governmental entities accountable for the results delivered.

In a prospering economy, governmental entities, such as The National Library of Australia, embrace the need for performance reporting and the public’s demand for transparency. A coherent and structured reporting framework, based on the accurate measurement of performance, efficient data management and masterful data visualization, ultimately strengthens the role of government in facilitating a healthy exchange of information between the state and its people.

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