The Obama administration appears to be making good on its goal of making government spending more transparent to the American populace, last week unveiling a USAspending.gov site that will track some $70 billion in government IT spending.
As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA or the Recovery Act), the administration is asking companies that accept federal stimulus funds to provide a similar transparency, says Timo Elliott, Business Objects' senior director of strategic marketing, on his BI Questions Blog. (Business Objects is owned by SAP.) This is obviously good news for business intelligence vendors like SAP and IBM, he writes:
This means the US government is essentially mandating effective use of business intelligence for any organization that touches the U.S. $787 billion in economic stimulus money, and major vendors such as SAP and IBM have quickly rolled out reporting packages to help organizations meet the new requirements.
He goes on to detail SAP's solutions that address the requirements and links to a fine Intelligent Enterprise article that makes the same point, noting that "transparent reporting will require a lot of dashboards, reports and key performance metrics." Yes, these requirements will likely add costs for companies receiving federal funds. According to the article, the requirements necessitated adding about $200,000 to an existing $1.2 million BI project under way at the Arkansas Department of Education.
But requiring such transparency in theory should help cut down on the kinds of spectacular project failures that prompted the recent introduction of a Senate bill that would require government agencies to report to Congress when IT projects are behind schedule or over budget and establish a "strike force" of IT experts to help with troubled projects.
Transparency is a good thing, according to a Deloitte Consulting report titled "Going Beyond Compliance." But before implementing any kind of newfangled reporting, Deloitte principal Eric Friedman says companies must ensure good basic compliance processes are in place. He says:
Only after the basics are in place can program management and anti-fraud program controls be further strengthened by utilizing more innovative management and technology practices. Even in planning, it's important to be innovative and creative.
Deloitte itself gets creative with its recommendations, advising companies to consider crowdsourcing and social networking tools to help oversee ARRA spending and also to respond to suggestions and questions.Companies like Google are utilizing such tools to cost-effectively develop and deliver products consumers want.