Enterprise Software Tracks Stimulus Funds

Facing extremely tight deadlines, state and local government entities are bracing for their integration into the Recovery.gov Web site which will track every dollar of the stimulus as mandated by the stimulus bill, also known as the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). State and local agencies make their first report on October 10, 2009 and federal agencies make their first report on May 20, 2009.

While enterprises are accustomed to handling ever more complex reporting requirements — Autonomy recently reported that it is storing over 10 petabytes of data for its customers — governments may not be ready.

Enter the big enterprise software guns, including IBM (NYSE: IBM), SAP (NYSE: SAP), and CA (NASDAQ: CA), who are bringing best practices from the private sector into the public sector along with software packages tailored to the ARRA and built for fast implementation.

CA is touting portfolio management software for grants management in a SaaS solution called CA Clarity Project and Portfolio Management (Clarity PPM) On Demand on demand. An on demand solution is ideal, David Hurwitz, CA vice president of solutions marketing, told InternetNews.com. “Every IT organization everywhere is full up right now, so how do you add one ore thing? Public sector IT organizations are deploying constituent portals and everything else that people expect from government right now.”

On demand products can also be installed quickly, Hurwitz added.

The software tracks now only such data as the cost of projects, their readiness, and the money spent — but also data points required by ARRA such as number of jobs created.

It differs from Microsoft Project Manager, which sits on many enterprise desktops, in scalability, integration, and smart dashboards. Clarity PPM on demand scales to hundreds or thousands of users, integrates with HR and financial systems, and delivers data in the format that the Recovery.gov Web site requires.

It’s not just for ARRA. The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) has been using the product since last November to track over $165 million in annual grants, and has already reduced the $10 million it misplaces each year due to errors in manual tracking, CA said in a statement.

CA Clarity PPM On Demand helps managers make quick decisions while handling large amounts of data. For example, the software can generate a bubble chart showing several dimensions of data. In addition to hard data such as project readiness and cost, the bubble chart displays the results of more complex evaluations such as the alignment of projects with agency goals and the ability of project teams to execute.

Next page: Hosting the software

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Hosting the software

But sometimes an organization is prepared to host the software. The State of Arkansas’ Department of Education (DOE) chose IBM’s Recovery Act Performance Solution to help it integrate into the Arkansas Recovery.gov Web site.
IBM’s software has to monitor funding, track a variety of requirements and results, and report seamlessly into the state and federal Web sites.

It’s a complex project. “The DOE will be receiving ARRA funds worth over $500 million and they will be allocated in 262 school districts,” said Robert Dolan, director of public sector marketing worldwide for IBM.

SAP is about to roll out the SAP ARRA Management and Reporting Solution that will handle the problem in SAP’s detail-oriented way with a large number of templates and the specific data model required by Recovery.gov.

The details, however, will change, warned Sherry Amos, SAP executive director of industry services. “No one can deliver a turnkey solution today because the requirements will change. With our starter kit, we’ve done at least as much as can be done and we believe that’s unique,” she said. “The OMB is supposed to initial additional guidelines this week. We’re engaged with what’s going on this week.”

Privacy and transparency

Oversight is covered in detail in ARRA, with an independent oversight board created by the act and dollar-by-dollar tracking mandated at the state and local level. Every contract will be placed into Recovery.gov, as will every application.

“Funding requirements in the ARRA include unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability to ensure efficient and effective use of resources, including a Recovery Board and built-in measures to root out waste, inefficiency, and unnecessary spending,” IBM said in a statement.

SAP’s Amos said that there may be a tension between privacy and transparency. “When we provide more access to the public to data, does it raise new questions? We have no answer to this yet but there is an active discussion,” she said. “Another component of this conversation is that one camp says, ‘make all the data available’ and another camp says, ‘is it really useful — let’s think first about providing data that has a public use.'”

Some of the information that will be in Recovery.gov could be used maliciously. “One data element is the D-U-N-S number. Many state and local entities just use the taxpayer ID number and some of those are Social Security numbers,” she said

However, she added, some are ahead of the game. “Governments at different levels have been implementing public transparency for some time and some have been quite innovative. Some states have transparency mandates. There are some very good examples of innovation on behalf of government.”

Amos gave one such example: the Where
the Money Goes
Web site of the State of Texas, powered by SAP Business Business Objects Intelligence tools.

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