DOD to gauge BEA progress

Latest architecture version to include success metrics and five new content areas

The difference that the Business Enterprise Architecture is making within the Defense Department hasn’t been gauged with specific metrics. But if you ask the Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., the results are easy to spot.

MacDill is testing the Standard Financial Information Structure (SFIS)—one of a number of programs under the Business Enterprise Architecture—from which commanders finally are receiving almost real-time views of their fiscal health.

David Fisher, DOD’s enterprise integration executive in the Business Transformation Agency, said the command is piloting SFIS standards to ensure they work within an Enterprise Resource Planning system. SFIS is a common business language that supports information and data requirements for budgeting, financial accounting, cost and performance management, and external reporting across the agency.

The command provides the BTA with feedback about the architecture standards and any possible problems before it goes departmentwide.

“Without these standards, we can’t aggregate and can’t get information in real time,” Fisher said earlier this month at a conference on enterprise architecture in Washington sponsored by the E-Gov Institute. “Their ability to know where the money is, how much they have left that hasn’t been obligated, are common things that decision-makers need to know at any point in time and have been a very manual and long process to find. They now have this information at their fingertips and we are trying to do this all over the department.”

Soon, MacDill and other commands implementing pieces of the Business Enterprise Architecture will have a way to measure success. Fisher said that Version 4.0 of the BEA is scheduled for release Thursday and will include an updated Enterprise Transition Plan that will “articulate what success looks like and the degree by which we measure it.”

By law, DOD has to deliver an updated BEA to Congress every six months. The agency sent Version 3.1 to Congress in March.

“It is not easy to measure success,” Fisher said, which is why the SFIS pilot has been important in assuring DOD it is on the right track.

“Enterprise business intelligence, which does not exist in the department other than through manual data calls and month-long delays to get certain kinds of information, is not acceptable,” Fisher said. “That is part of the big business initiatives we are trying to fix with SFIS. How do we get decision-makers timely, accurate, reliable information?”

And while DOD seems to be making progress with its initial content areas, which in addition to financial management also includes human resources, weapons systems lifecycle management, material supply and services management, and real property and installations management, it plans to add five more in Version 4.0. Fisher said they include enterprise funds distribution, hazardous materials, non-Defense environmental restoration program, environmental liabilities and construction in progress.

“We are performing business process re-engineering that focuses on the quality of integration of a few select, high-priority things,” Fisher said.

DOD also will announce several new programs that will fall under BTA’s authority (see chart). BTA already manages SFIS, the Defense Travel System, the Standard Procurement System and the Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System.

“We are driving toward six-month outcomes at a time,” Fisher said. “If we don’t implement these standards, then our work is for naught. And you get frustrated and depressed workers.”

DOD expects every financial-management system to be compliant with SFIS standards.
To that end, Fisher’s office has put together a team to help Defense agencies comply with SFIS standards.

“We will put requirements out there, but we don’t do a very good job understanding the functional and system side and what is our responsibility to help the components comply with the standards we have articulated,” he said. “We have eight to 10 experts, and we hope to have 14 or 15 by the end of the year.”

Fisher said these people are experts in software from Oracle Corp. or SAP America Inc. of Newtown Square, Pa., and have additional expertise in specific functions such as cost accounting.

For the Special Operations Command pilot, BTA is working with the other services and agencies to take financial information and cross-walk it to the financial standards. Then SOCOM would receive it in a dashboard format with drill-down capability.

“This is similar to the two-pronged approach to get components to use SFIS,” Fisher said. “We are starting with the Marines over a 12-month period starting in March.”

The BTA also will issue configuration models for Oracle and SAP financial systems that comply with SFIS. Fisher said this is one way to format the software, but not the only way.

“We want to take the guesswork out of becoming compliant,” he said. “We also will provide implementation training for the DOD ERP community.”

All this data would go into a central repository to feed the comptroller for reporting in 2008.

Fisher added that as each service brings up a new ERP—that is a part of their blueprint modernization plan—the need to cross-walk data would go away.

“If we don’t implement, we don’t transform,” Fisher said. “The architecture is a big part of that strategy, but not all of it.”

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