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As federal employees are furloughed, programs and contractors are cut, and agreement on future federal budgets appears remote, efficient management of the trillions of dollars it takes to operate the government is more important than ever. In Federal News Radio's on-air and online series, "Rise of the Money People: Financial management moves front and center as agencies make the final assault on wasted billions," we shine the light on chief financial officers and their soldiers in the financial wars, their strategies and tactics for waging the fight, the current and emerging weapons in their arsenal, and how their future battles will unfold.
Bureau of Fiscal Service primes network for influx of new customers
Thursday - 4/11/2013, 9:01pm EDT
So BFS is preparing its systems and network today for the likely upsurge later.
The expected increase in customers comes from the Office of Management and Budget's requirement for agencies to move to a shared service provider for financial management unless they can justify why they should not move.
Kim McCoy, the chief information officer for the bureau, said the Fiscal Service is in the final stages of upgrading its financial management software, Oracle Federal Financials 11i, and has optimized its network to a great extent.
So the Fiscal Service needs to figure out what else it can do to prepare its systems and software for larger and more complex customers.
"In the past we would increase capacity as needed. When we would on-board a customer we would increase capacity at that time," she said. "One of our recent conversations has to do with, do we pre-position capacity in the anticipation that we will receive more customers? Of course, some has to pay for that capacity and how do we manage that structure to be able to more rapidly onboard customers into our services while still holding prices very, very low and steady."
Mandate, budget as forcing functions
McCoy said BFS just is in the early stages of these conversations, but the expectation of more customers is real because of the OMB mandate.
"It will impact our shared services by making them more visible and more attractive. I think that will expand our customer base more rapidly, perhaps more rapidly than it would have been done when everything was more voluntary," she said. "In the past, our shared services, we don't market within the federal government. It's not something we spend money on. It's word of mouth and customers or agencies referring to other agencies. With the recent issuance from OMB, we will see greater intentions from agencies to at least do evaluations and look at does it make sense for them to make a move. It's going to be harder and harder for agencies to get budget dollars to be able to maintain or update their financial systems, which will leave them with little choice but to consider shared services."
McCoy's discussion on Ask the CIO is part of Federal News Radio's week-long special report the Rise of the Money People: Financial management moves front and center as agencies make final assault on wasted billions.
The other area BFS is focusing on in preparation for more customers is how to better use data, specifically what services they can perform on behalf of their customers.
Reviewing tools to parse data
McCoy said the bureau will not offer data analytical services, but services that use data analytics as a major component, such as the Do Not Pay list.
"The technology necessary to process data in these volumes is very specialized and obviously quite expensive. It's an area we are entering in to," she said. "We have more economists on staff now than we ever have in the past because of their expertise with data analysis."
McCoy said BFS also is reviewing data analytics tools to figure out which one or ones are best for their needs.
"One of the things we recently implemented and are looking to expand is the use of a massively parallel processor to crunch the large amounts of data that we have," she said. "We also are heavily invested in looking at data standardization. How do we normalize our data, tag our data and store our data in such a way it's more effective and efficient for us to do analysis on? We have a data standards program, which I think is a little advanced in terms of the way people are looking at financial services. We are doing more and more to promote data transparency within the federal government. All of that requires not just the additional hardware and software resource, but the technical and analytical know how to make that happen."
Additionally, McCoy said the bureau is looking at business process management to improve how they manage email from customers, and integration with other financial systems such as procurement and human resources.