RESEARCH & RESOURCES

CASE STUDY - USDA Farm Service Agency: Enhanced Accounting Operations Management with Business Intelligence

Commentary by Jeffrey O’Connell, CORE Data Warehouse Project Manager and Accountant, Accounting Systems & Planning, USDA

Background

The Farm Service Agency administers, manages, and controls legislation passed by Congress to assist the agricultural community. Legislation includes loans and subsidies to producers, conservation programs, price and inventory stabilization programs, foreign export of agricultural products, foreign and domestic food donations, and disaster relief. FSA provides program support to producers and the administrative support needed to maintain these programs.

FSA’s financial management division goals for 2001–05 include:

  1. Allowing customers to share data and receive services electronically via the Internet
  2. Improving the quality, availability, and speed with which information is shared with the public, other agencies, and private-sector entities
  3. Having a financial information system that can produce auditable financial statements and provide reliable data for decision making
  4. Fully implementing the DCI Act of 1996 to maximize debt collection
  5. Implementing an automated, efficient HR system for workforce planning/reporting that decreases the personnel resources

The old reporting system was antiquated, unfriendly, and required specialized programmers to generate reports. Employees in state and county offices were held accountable for their budgets, but were lacking timely budget management reports. Detailed payroll information was simply not available. A county could be told they were over budget, but they had no way to access details. Producers’ farm loan debt information was scattered across multiple systems with no consolidated view of outstanding balances and payment history.

Solution

The data warehouse and Hyperion BI solution were designed and implemented by Advanced DataTools (ADTC), a Hyperion consulting and training partner. The FSA data warehouse (SUN E6500 with 12 CPUs, 6 GB of memory, and 264 disks [2.4 TB] using an IBM Informix database server) is loaded with fresh data every night, after which Hyperion Intelligence generates over 200 new reports. These prebuilt Hyperion reports are ideal for decision makers.

With Hyperion Intelligence, local office managers view a variety of reports empowering them to track loan payments and expenses, ensure timely vendor payments, and conduct projections of lease agreements. State offices access prebuilt payroll reports that are quality assured by accounting staff, compared with the General Journal and OMDR (modified detail record), and delivered within 10 days of payroll. At headquarters, the Hyperion BI solution is used to track national wage and time reporting, as well as perform cost-benefit analyses. Users can immediately identify budget and payroll coding errors. Employees can change their W-4 and see the detail of the changes in their payroll within days.

New data marts are under development. They include a payments data mart to consolidate and track producer payments, and a public access data mart to allow producers online access to loan information and FSA services and programs.

Results

FSA’s goals and payment collections are facilitated through a consolidated view of producers’ loans and payment history via the data warehouse and Hyperion reports and queries. FSA is better able to manage farmers’ debt. State and county executive directors manage their budgets with data that is only one day old. Improved information enables better decisions to guide the agency. According to Jeffrey O’Connell, CORE data warehouse project manager and accountant for Accounting Systems & Planning, “Hyperion is our future, our flagship software, and is what runs this office. I am now training headquarters, state, and county office staff in financial data of every form and fashion—I don’t know where we’d be without it.” The data warehouse is employed in 2,540 counties, with over 10,000 staff. Reports are routinely generated for managers at all levels, Congress, and other agencies.

For more information, please visit www.hyperion.com/cornerstones.

USDA Farm Service Agency

Company

U.S. Government Agency administers programs to assist the agricultural community

Industry

Government

Product

Hyperion Business Intelligence Platform for Reporting

Challenge
  • Employees were held accountable for budgets, but lacked timely budget reports
  • Replace reporting system that delivered paper reports with six-week-old data

Solution

  • Local office managers access some 200 reports, all with fresh data
  • Reports help manage loan payments, expenses, vendor payments, and lease agreements

Result

  • Improved information enables better decisions to guide the agency
  • FSA is better able to manage farmers’ debt
  • More is done with smaller headcount
  • Significant savings from not mailing paper reports

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