October 16, 2020

Apportionment Tool Receives Innovation Award from Public Sector 360

When you think of innovative technology in the government sector, artificial intelligence, robotic process automation, and blockchain may spring immediately to mind. Sometimes, however, innovation relies not on the newest tech but using existing tools as elegant solutions to complex challenges in a new context. This is exactly what the Budget Line of Business (Budget LoB) accomplished with the Apportionment Manager, and this month they received a Government Innovation Award from Public Sector 360 in recognition of their work. 

Budget apportionment is central to an agency’s ability to operate and meet their mission. Every agency receives a budget and then ‘apportions’ the money to where it is needed. This is a complex process, involving executives, program staff, and financial experts, all working to support the American people. The Apportionment Manager has helped partner agencies execute budget apportionments far faster—by over double the speed for some partners. 

Managing such a complex tool, and making it usable across the government, takes a lot of effort, too. The solution leverages off-the-shelf technology and the shared service model to significantly reduce the cost of standing up, updating, and managing the tool for partners across government. The Apportionment Manager creates one unified framework, eliminating geographical barriers and recording validations, digital signatures, and submission results in the federal budget apportionment process. The tool is available to all government agencies and can be customized to meet an agency’s unique needs. 

The Government Innovation Awards focus on transformative technology that is truly reinventing government at the federal civilian, defense, and state and local levels. 

The Budget LoB team built the tool using Atlassian Jira, a product most commonly used to manage Agile software development. Because workflow, auditing and tracking are at the heart of Jira and Agile development, the team recognized that it would be an excellent tool for managing portions of the budget process. However, Jira’s native interface is designed for technical users and not budget professionals so, with TCG’s support, the Budget LoB developed and utilized a custom Jira plugin to create a better, cleaner interface for members of the Budget LoB community. 

With the custom plugin, called IdealForms, the Budget LoB team used Jira to create streamlined workflows, automated issues and permissions tracking, and created a digital audit trail, all to support budgetary data collection and reporting across multiple bureaus and departments of key federal agencies. The tool also enables agencies to interface directly with the OMB Apportionment System, while maintaining their internal controls and workflow capabilities. It allows for direct editing of the documents and forms agencies are required to submit, eliminating the need for downloading and emailing forms.

The system reduces overhead by giving non-developers the ability to deploy new systems and update existing ones with very little training. The efficiencies in deployment and updates mean it takes less time to stand up a system, updates are made faster, performance is improved, and troubleshooting and addressing issues is accelerated. 

Apportionment is a budget community wide process, and input from partners has been integral to the success of the tool. The primary form that this collaboration takes is the Apportionment Management Workgroup, the first formal means of interagency communication on apportionment. The Workgroup is as important as the technology because the tool improves relative to effective collaboration and input from stakeholders, and the Workgroup allows agencies to benefit from each other’s experience as well as provide input on emerging needs, the priority of new features, and feedback on existing capabilities. 

 

About Budget LoB

Chartered at the request of the federal budget community, the Budget LoB is a partnership between the Budget LoB Program Management Office (PMO) housed at the Department of Education, the Budget Systems Branch at OMB, and over two dozen Partner Agency budget offices. Partner Agencies guide the scope and mission of the Budget LoB and collaborate with the PMO to develop solutions. Together, these organizations support the federal budget community by examining commonalities and complexities in agency processes.

The Budget LoB has three major focus areas: Processes, Technology, and Training & Career Development. The PMO looks for common solutions, efficiencies, and cost savings; builds tools with the entire federal budget community in mind; and fosters communities that encourage personal and professional growth. The Apportionment Manager is one example of this highly successful collaboration.