SEC working smarter to focus on innovation

Thursday - 8/9/2012, 3:27pm EDT

Thomas Bayer, CIO, SEC

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The Securities and Exchange Commission spends $130 million of its IT budget for development, modernization and enhancements of systems. The SEC's total fiscal 2012 technology budget is $210 million, meaning about two-thirds of the agency's money is spent on new or updating current IT projects.

And Thomas Bayer, the SEC chief information officer, said he'd like to see that ratio go even higher.

"We cut about $15.5 million out of our operations and maintenance budget last year," he said. "We have 'spend to save' projects where we spend money in order to save our expense budget and manage that as tightly and carefully as possible. Every project we have in the SEC undergoes a cost-benefit analysis and when we take it to our investment board, we make sure we have a balance between our regulatory requirements as well as new investments in efficiencies and effectiveness of our staff, as well as investing in technology that allows us to do more work without having any people touch it."

One example of a "spend-to-save" project is the SEC's investment in a new e- discovery capability. Bayer said the technology will help the staff more easily and more quickly comb through the huge amount of data it collects each year.

The SEC reduced costs by taking a two-pronged approach. Bayer said one approach covered the basics such as requiring double-sided printing or to stop paying for mobile devices that were in desk drawers. But the bigger impact came from developing metrics for every system.

"We automatically metriced the health and well-being of our systems," Bayer said. "That allows us to anticipate problems, whether they are capacity-related problems or stress-related problems on the systems or network. We anticipate that reduces costs and speeds the time to fixing the systems. It allowed us to reduce our primary information infrastructure support services contract."

Bayer said he also focused on improving how the SEC not only takes in data, but manages it too.

"We reduced our costs from a data storage perspective," he said. "We've also reduced the cost of electricity in our data centers. We combined plugs and outlets."

But it's not only about reducing costs. Bayer said the SEC is taking the money they are saving and investing it in both mission and back-office systems.

For instance, the SEC is moving to Microsoft Windows 7 and SharePoint 2010 to improve how information is routed inside the agency. Bayer said the agency also is developing systems to improve its business processes and automate workflow, a knowledge management system to make it easier for employees to find and share expertise, and implementing data analytics and visualization.

"Our plan is to migrate our internal systems to an enterprise data warehouse that will facilitate collaboration across users, groups and agencies," he said. "This will allow users to more efficiently search our data in order to uncover issues and problems we need to work through."

To help build the warehouse, Bayer will standardize to a single database platform to hold all company data.

"The SEC will be able to build reports and predictive dashboards that unify our data from disparate data sources in a single view, thus saving hours, days and potentially months of research into multiple data sources," he said. "We also are leveraging data visualization wherever possible. That allows us, through a visual presentation of phone record data or other very nuanced data, to show a jury or prosecutor what has happened, the flow of information, it's very powerful."

Bayer said the SEC will issue a solicitation for a vendor to build and maintain the data warehouse very soon. He added the SEC will issue another solicitation for data center services in the cloud.


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