An efficient Apportionment process requires effective coordination between an agency and its bureaus. Agencies addressed their internal processes, workflows, and submissions with a disparate collection of tools, shared drives, email and paper, creating challenges with version control, transparency, and processing time. In this state, information was often unavailable regarding where an apportionment was in the workflow and who was responsible for next steps. Agencies faced particular issues with version control and had trouble confirming when and which version of the apportionment was sent to OMB. Processes were manual, paper or email based, and issues arose with the accuracy of data, leading to a need to resubmit required documents and creating information gaps concerning the status of an apportionment. Moreover, agencies lacked affordable access to customizable technology solutions that would allow effective interfacing with the OMB system and meet unique needs of their agency. Also, it was difficult to track how long apportionments had been with OMB, leading to delays in funding.
As part of their mission to serve the budget community through investment in technology modernization and services, the Budget LoB collaborated with partners to develop the Apportionment Manager, a tool that automates the creation, editing, approval, and submission of the SF 132 Apportionment documents—the required documents that contain all of an agency’s apportionment information. The tool creates transparency around the apportionment process and decreases processing by providing a direct connection to OMB’s Apportionment System, automated workflow management, and improved data governance and reporting.
The Apportionment Manager is the only tool that “talks” to OMB’s Apportionment System, allowing direct submission of SF-132s by agencies and responses from OMB. This has several advantages including:
- Eliminating the need to work in two systems
- Allowing creations and direct editing of SF-132
- Providing Remote Access
- Eliminating paper and need to email documents
- Enabling agencies to pull back approved SF-132s from the OMB system making it a true cradle to grave system. Agencies don’t have to track and upload the approved versions.
- Enabling agencies to withdraw SF-132s from the OMB system directly from the Budget LoB system.
Automated Workflow Management
The tool provides a dashboard that details each stage in the workflow, so all users are able to see where an apportionment is in the process. The dashboard replaces processes such as manual data entry in Excel sheets that were required for each transition. Automated workflow notifications that require action are sent out to the individual responsible for the next step. Every action is documented, and the dashboard provides clear information on who is working on what apportionment.
- Notifications: Through MAX Community groups, stakeholders are notified when an apportionment is promoted or demoted. In others words, it lets individuals know when something needs to be done and when it is complete.
- Validation/Re-validation: Upon uploading SF-132s and supporting documentation, the system will alert users to problems with their submissions and the location of the problems in their submission. This ensures that information is correctly formatted and complete.
Data Governance and Reporting
In addition to the direct interface with OMB’s system and process automation, the Apportionment Manager has also improved data governance and reporting by:
- Creating accessible repository for past apportionments
- Reducing errors and making it easy to validate data
- Offering better tracking and reporting on status of apportionments
- Creating a digital audit trail and allows stakeholders to track apportionments through the entire process.
With better data governance and reporting, agencies have improved accountability and transparency around their apportionment process.
Improved Processing Time
Customers have responded that the system allows them to meet deadlines, where their old processes would have failed, and that they think the tool is very helpful for auditing purposes. While agencies respond that they are extremely likely to recommend the solution to other partner agencies, we aim to continue making improvements moving forward. One Budget LoB Partner Agency reported that this tool brought the Apportionment processing time down from 30 days to about 13 days.
Streamlined, Cost-Effective Acquisition
The Apportionment Manager leverages the share service model to accelerate affordable acquisition. The solutions developed in collaboration with partner agencies have been completed with no additional cost to agencies. Cost/savings analysis for the Apportionment work shows the initial implementation was approximately $500k cheaper than a traditional acquisition activity could provide and was fielded in less than half the time. An estimated savings of approximately $1M for each agency, while being fielded in less than a quarter of the time (approximately 3 months on average).
Collaboration: 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.
The Tech Project Survey allows the Budget LoB to access constructive feedback about the tool’s reliability, quality, effectiveness, modernity, and value as well as gauge the level of satisfaction with the communications, training, and resources provided by the Budget LoB Project Manager
Agile Technology: The application uses a standard base code, designed to be easily copied and reused, reducing the time needed to develop and stand up a new system. The first iteration required 100–120 hours, but a system can now be completed in less than 50 hours. The recent all telework rules, lead to a sudden need for an agency to shift their apportionment process to automated, we were able to build out a basic system (it has limited customizations) in under 40 hours. This time frame includes requirements gathering and testing. Rapid, agile development means that unique features or “business rules” that agencies need can be created or applied.
|Key Base Features|
|Key Customizable Features|
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.