5 years, 6 months ago

DATA Act IT Infrastructure – Platform Consolidation, Virtualization & Collaborative Governance as Change Enablers

Momentum and activity regarding the Data Act is gathering steam, and off to a great start. The DATA Act directs the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) to establish government-wide financial reporting data standards by May 2015. The act also requires agencies to begin reporting financial spending data using these standards by May 2017 and to post spending data on USASpending.gov or an alternate system by May 2018.

According to many reports, including a recent GAO testimony, "OMB and Treasury have taken several significant steps towards meeting these requirements including the release of 27 discrete data standards, draft technical specifications, and implementation guidance intended to help federal agencies meet their responsibilities under the act. However, given the government-wide scope of the technical and cultural reforms required by the DATA Act, much more remains to be done…OMB and Treasury have proposed standardizing 57 data elements for reporting under the act. They released 15 elements in May 2015, a year after the passage of the act, and have since released 12 more. Eight of these were new elements required under the DATA Act; the balance of the first 15 data elements were required under the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (FFATA). Officials told us that they expect to complete the process by the end of the summer."

Reaching the 2017/2018 milestones, however, will require IT infrastructure change. Some change may be simple or take advantage of existing modernization efforts; much change will be very difficult, complex and/or costly. Strategies to prepare for this change, and catalyze it, are not yet part of the government-led discussion – but they are now part of the industry-led discussion, per this new Executive Report from ACT-IAC, co-authored by Oracle: "The DATA Act – IT Infrastructure Guidance Change Facilitation for IT Departments".

At this time, there is considerable effort and oversight focused, and rightly so, on essentially the requirements and governance around the requirements, i.e. (as the GAO report focuses on) things like:

  • Data Standards Governance
  • Identification of Data Programs
  • Stakeholder Collaboration

Yet this effort only address the first few steps towards solution strategy, design and implementation (therefore including information technology infrastructure), as Treasury recommends in its DATA Act Playbook: "To assist agencies with implementation, Treasury recommends eight key steps that can help agencies fulfill the requirements of the DATA Act by leveraging existing capabilities and streamlining implementation efforts."

The eight key steps are:

(These are well underway by many entities)

1. Organize Your Team: Create an agency DATA Act work group including impacted communities within your agency and designate a Senior Accountability Officer (SAO);
2. Review Elements: Review the list of DATA Act elements and participate in data definitions standardization;

(The following are not yet commonly underway)

3. Inventory Data: Perform an inventory of agency data and associated business processes and systems;
4. Design & Strategize: Plan changes to systems and business processes to capture financial, procurement, and financial assistance data;
5. Execute Broker: Implement a "broker"at the agency.  The broker is a virtual data layer at the agency that maps, ingests, transforms, validates, and submits agency data into a format consistent with the DATA Act Schema (i.e., data exchange standards).  
6. Test Broker Implementation: Test broker outputs to ensure data is accurate and reliable;
7. Update Systems: Implement other system changes (e.g., establish linkages between program and financial data, and capture any new data); and
8. Submit Data: Update and refine process (repeat 5-7 as needed)

Acknowledgement of the change ahead for IT departments is out there, though…"Creating the linkages for these data (i.e. the mapping among data across various systems) is going to be one of the biggest challenges for many federal agencies. While it might seem like a relatively straight-forward task, the volume of data and the complexity of systems make it a significant challenge." – Statement of David A. Lebryk, Fiscal Assistant Secretary, U.S.
Department of the Treasury before the House Committee on Oversight and
Government Reform Subcommittee on Information Technology and
Subcommittee on Government Operations, United States House of
Representatives, July 29, 2015

The ACT-IAC paper lays out three fundamental tenets for addressing this change, to help either reduce or facilitate processing the volumes of data, and most importantly, to reduce the complexity of the system changes required.

Consolidation: the DATA Act mandate includes no new budget, yet requires agencies to instigate or take advantage of a wealth of shared services and data management improvement or modernization programs already underway, both in government and industry, to reduce duplication and unnecessary IT management and integration complexities. Message: “standardization and consolidation initiatives are a priority, aligned via enterprise architecture tenets."

Engaged governance: most public sector agencies are faced with generational data management change drivers already, from big data to secure mobile analytics requirements. This federal-led initiative provides a top-down, organizational imperative for actionable, cost-effective data governance across the entire community of data users and stewards. Message: “let’s get committed, transparent, and hands-on with data governance.”

Virtualization: the variety of data standards and processing maturity across all the stakeholders is so great, from federal to state, local, and private recipients, that the elements of a solution will require a great deal of abstraction from the legacy data stores, systems and acquisition plans that can’t easily be changed. This introduces a dynamic, agile layer of usefulness between the existing IT infrastructure and new users with high, consumer-driven expectations. Message: “do no harm, but expose tangible value quickly.”

Contact me or anyone at Oracle for more information about challenges regarding IT Consolidation (including Data Integration, Master Data & Data Integration Services, i.e. "Broker" approaches), Collaborative & Engaged IT Governance, or IT Virtualization Strategies (from platform technologies to cloud services) – whether to prepare your agency for DATA Act compliance, or to simply advance and accelerate IT modernization altogether.