U.S. Government Agency
Headquartered in Washington, D.C., this U.S. cabinet-level agency is organized into nearly 30 major sub-agencies and employs more than 17,000 full-time equivalent employees. In fiscal year 2013, the department's budget request was for $12.0 billion in discretionary budget authority.
Each year, as part of the federal fiscal budgeting process, the budgeting center of this department manages the process of preparing budget and performance information and plans for the nearly 30 major agencies under its umbrella.
Producing the budget reports is a time-consuming, complex and manual process that utilizes homegrown technology and Excel spreadsheets. The department's system automatically creates spreadsheets according to templates, but users must enter new budget figures manually into spreadsheets. Data is then integrated with text using an enterprise content management application to produce documents containing narrative explanation of the budget and tables with data from the transactional database. Following an extensive internal deliberation process in which agencies review and approve the report drafts, final reports are printed out and truckloads of binders containing these documents are delivered to Congress and the President. Addressing new or changed information during and after the approved budget was published was a difficult and time-consuming challenge.
Monitoring, managing, evaluating and reporting agencies’ performance of organizational goals was similarly challenging.
The department faced three major challenges:
- Difficult and manual budget reporting and planning process. Limited visibility regarding the status of budget preparations.
- Lack of an accurate, central source of information for viewing and evaluating actual, budgeted and forecast spending.
- Lack of an accurate, central source of information for evaluating agencies’ results vs. targets in achieving performance goals.
In February 2012, the department retained Senturus to create and implement a series of dashboards that, for the first time, would provide high-level executives within the department an easy-to-use, high-level, single source for information on the status of the overall budget process, actuals and forecast figures, and performance against organizational goals. The dashboard would be an invaluable tool both during the development of the fiscal budget, but also throughout the year, providing quarterly updates. The department gave a deadline for delivery of the dashboard that required the project to be completed in under seven months.
Following analysis of the department’s data, architecture and requirements, Senturus was able to quickly develop and implement a scalable solution that not only addresses the specific request for a dashboard, but also optimizes data for reporting, saves time, and increases flexibility and reliability of data. Key components of the solution included:
- Upgrade of business intelligence software to enable users to create high-performing, interactive dashboard widgets quickly. Senturus provided onsite support to augment department staff during implementation.
- Creation of a data mart optimized for reporting and building dashboard. The new data mart extracts data out of the data store and architects it so that data can be optimized for reporting.
- Creation of an Extract Transformation and Load process (ETL) that automates processes for taking data out of a high-level transactional system and loading it into another database optimized for reporting, enabling the creation of rich dashboard objects and analysis. The ETL eliminates the need to obtain data directly from the transactional system–a more time-consuming and complicated, as well as less resilient process.
- Design and implementation of a dashboard that provides key information and an easy-to-use interface for viewing and analyzing budget and performance information.
For the first time, this major U.S. government agency can easily view and evaluate key budget and performance data of federal agencies during the fiscal budgeting process and throughout the year.