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How the Stimulus Package May Stimulate Business Intelligence

Providing transparency into the economic stimulus spending will require the best BI has to offer.

The stated purpose of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed into law by President Obama on February 17 is to “to jumpstart our economy, create or save millions of jobs, and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges so our country can thrive in the 21st century.”

To provide transparency about how the funds are being spent, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has, among other actions, created a Web site ( to monitor the progress of the recovery. Federal agencies will be required to report their use of funds, make their performance plans publicly available, provide detailed agency financial reports, and report their grants and contracts. Recipients will also be required to report on their use of Federal funds. Many reports will be published monthly and updated weekly.

As these reports will be organized by project, new procedures may be required in organizations that are used to reporting on a line-item or per-grant basis. In addition, many of the analyses will require data to be consolidated from multiple sources with different data formats or even data definitions. While these consolidations may initially be accomplished manually (including reentry of data obtained from e-mail messages, reports, and spreadsheets), they can ultimately be expected to involve more formal, and more accurate, data integration technology.

As most of us realize, this reporting and analysis is a prime example of business intelligence and corporate performance management (or perhaps more precisely, government performance management!) and is sure to provide high visibility into how funds are being spent while presenting a clear example of BI in action. This can only help to bring the power of BI to the public’s attention and serve as a catalyst for making it more pervasive.

From the perspective of the BI practitioner and systems integration organizations with business intelligence and data integration practices, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act should also spark further investment in business intelligence and data integration spending. If so, perhaps we should call it the BI Recovery and Reinvestment Act!

BI professionals, especially those with governmental and public-sector experience, can expect to see demand for their talents increase. BI practitioners lacking knowledge of project accounting would do well to try to update their skills, perhaps by taking formal courses. BI professionals in systems integration and consulting organizations that lack public-sector exposure should attempt to be assigned to a public sector client to gain this experience.

There is certainly opportunity for increased BI and DI usage as, for example, in some agencies the current “state-of-the-art” for dashboards may consist of manual data entry into PowerPoint presentations! Furthermore, in addition to tracking project progress and funds spent, contracting organizations and systems integrators are required to supply employee hiring and retention reports in support of the Stimulus’ objective of creating and/or saving millions of jobs. Still other analyses will be concerned with the environmental and energy impact and progress towards “greener” goals. In addition, ongoing efforts to shorten the time required to gain security clearances, especially when a contractor is already cleared by one agency but is now involved with a project in another, will likely drive new governmental data warehousing initiatives to facilitate cross-agency resource utilization.

Let the recovery begin!

About the Author

Michael A. Schiff is founder and principal analyst of MAS Strategies, which specializes in formulating effective data warehousing strategies. With more than four decades of industry experience as a developer, user, consultant, vendor, and industry analyst, Mike is an expert in developing, marketing, and implementing solutions that transform operational data into useful decision-enabling information.

His prior experience as an IT director and systems and programming manager provide him with a thorough understanding of the technical, business, and political issues that must be addressed for any successful implementation. With Bachelor and Master of Science degrees from MIT's Sloan School of Management and as a certified financial planner, Mike can address both the technical and financial aspects of data warehousing and business intelligence.

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