Energy embraces e-gov

The Energy Department has launched a tool to help program managers do their jobs better.

Managers have had limited access to real-time information about their programs, making it difficult to assess where the agency stands in terms of spending and other performance measures. The Integrated Management Navigation System, or I-Manage, seeks to change that.

I-Manage will move DOE to an automated, Web-based system from the existing manual, paper-based process. A Data Warehouse will serve as a "knowledge bank" that delivers alerts on program activities, including cost updates and achieved milestones. Further, it will customize information going to desktop computers, creating dashboard displays.

"The department is taking a bold approach and looks forward to working with other agencies when they have to [tackle] these challenges that we are working on now," said Jack Koller, senior policy adviser in DOE's chief information officer's office.

I-Manage replaces an accounting system known as the Phoenix Project with a larger system that cuts across disciplines, consolidating such tasks as travel, payroll, budget, procurement, human resources, and research and development "into a single interactive whole to achieve efficiencies not available by managing them separately," officials wrote in a January program newsletter.

Recent reviews of DOE's information technology programs "concluded that the [Phoenix] project was on the right path generally, but emphasized the need for more interaction with program offices and major contractors and the need to ensure integration with other" business systems and the department's enterprise architecture, according to the newsletter.

Enterprise architecture aligns IT investments within and across agencies, providing up-to-date inventories of systems. "I-Manage represents a large part of the to-be architecture" or envisioned infrastructure, said Ed Golden, deputy program manager for the system.

Department officials see I-Manage as a way to fulfill the goals of the President's Management Agenda, a strategy for making agencies more effective. The system is a major part of DOE's effort to expand e-government with the goals of saving money and increasing efficiency.

"Using technology to make DOE more efficient and effective is an important means to success in e-government," said Mark Forman, associate director of IT and e-government at the Office of Management and Budget, during a kickoff meeting for the system Jan. 8.

"For many federal agencies, the systems available for managing programs are unbelievably archaic and fragmented," said Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting Inc. "It's difficult to find simple information."

At DOE, for example, program managers on construction projects must relay requests for status reports to the field via e-mail or phone, and then wait for a response. "Information lags so far behind," Golden said. With I-Manage, however, they will be able to receive automatic warnings when spending begins to reach their budget ceilings.

"Obviously, it hits the management most, but it also trickles down to everyone," Koller said. "It will impact each and every one of them." For DOE, that's about 110,000 employees, including contractors. "We've got an extensive training plan for each module," Golden said.

Business processes must evolve as well, Suss added. Energy officials noted in the newsletter that I-Manage is "as much an organizational effort as a technical effort."

"You need leadership that has got backbone," Suss said.

The department has scheduled a phased deployment through fiscal 2006. Department officials are working on the Standard Accounting and Reporting System and are moving into the requirements phase on data warehousing.

"It's definitely a turn in the right direction, and I believe many agencies are trying to do similar things," Suss said.

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Tying it together

The Energy Department's Integrated Management Navigation System will modernize and integrate several systems that employees rely on to do their jobs.

Those systems and their expected uses include:

* The Standard Accounting and Reporting System will tie together budget formulation and execution, financial accounting and reporting, cost accounting and performance measurement.

* The Data Warehouse will make critical information readily available.

* The Standard Budget System will enable real-time management of financial assets, with better monitoring and measuring of performance goals.

* E-Procurement will standardize procurement practices.

* The Corporate Human Resources Information System will support human resources processing and information.

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