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ARRA Will be a Boon for Business Intelligence

Originally published June 16, 2009

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 will give business intelligence practitioners a big boost. This is because there are at least four hooks in this legislation where business intelligence (BI) is a must. First of all, there are significant mandates for funds to be used specifically to develop, enhance or modernize information technology systems. You can find many references, including a $50 million appropriation to the Farm Service Agency “for the purpose of maintaining and modernizing the information technology system;” $85 million to the Indian Health Services for health information technology activities; and $20 million to the Small Business Administration “for improving, streamlining, and automating information technology systems related to lender processes and lender oversight.”

Health information technology is the second huge BI opportunity. Title XIII of the law is completely dedicated to it, and we’ve all read the tens of billions of dollars that have been allocated to this. While most of it will be managed and distributed by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), there are many other provisions in the law that will give other agencies a role in health IT also. Business intelligence will, of course, be one of the pillars of health IT since the massive amounts of data from electronic health records will be the prime object of significant analysis.

The education provisions are a third hook for business intelligence. For starters, they are framed in the context of the so-called “Four Assurances” to advance core reforms. These are:

  1. College and career-ready standards and high quality, valid, and reliable assessments for all students, including English language learners (ELLs) and students with disabilities;

  2. Pre-K to higher education data systems that meet the principles in the America COMPETES Act;

  3. Teacher effectiveness and equitable distribution of  effective teachers; and

  4. Intensive support and effective interventions for lowest-performing schools.

The reason for listing these is that there is a boatload of metrics that are mandated from grantees, whether they be states, local governments, contractors or institutions. Here are some examples as communicated by the Department of Education last month:

  • Number and percent of teachers in the highest-poverty and lowest-poverty schools in the state who are highly qualified

  • Number and percent of teachers and principals rated at each performance level in each local education association’s (LEA) teacher evaluation system

  • Number and percent of LEA teacher and principal evaluation systems that require evidence of student achievement outcomes

  • Most recent math and reading National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores

  • Percent of ELLs and students with disabilities tested in math and English language arts (ELA)

  • Number and percent of students who graduate and complete one year of college

  • Number of schools in restructuring status that demonstrated substantial gains in achievement, closed or consolidated – last 3 years

  • Number of schools in the bottom 5% of those schools that demonstrated substantial gains in student achievement, closed or consolidated – last 3 years

  • Number and percent of schools in restructuring status that have made progress in math and ELA in last year

  • Charter school caps, number operating, number closed
But in addition, there is special emphasis on providing “better information to educators and the public to address the individual needs of students and improve teacher performance.” This includes a large amount of funding for states to implement “statewide data systems.”

The last strong BI link is in the general reporting requirements. In order to comply with the transparency and openness requirements under the statute, all ARRA funds must be tracked separately, and this means at the very least, the following:
  • Quarterly reports on both financial information and how funds are being used

  • Estimated number of jobs created

  • Subcontracts and sub-grants required to comply with the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act
All of these entry points for business intelligence are very real. Without a robust BI toolkit, recipients of ARRA funds will probably not be able to take full advantage of the funding and not be able to comply with the reporting requirements.

Dashboards, in particular, will play a key role in the reporting, analysis and tracking of these funds. The need to have a real-time grasp of what money is going where and for what will be paramount.

This is truly a golden opportunity for BI practitioners to show what they can do and help the country substantially in the process.

  • Dr. Ramon BarquinDr. Ramon Barquin

    Dr. Barquin is the President of Barquin International, a consulting firm, since 1994. He specializes in developing information systems strategies, particularly data warehousing, customer relationship management, business intelligence and knowledge management, for public and private sector enterprises. He has consulted for the U.S. Military, many government agencies and international governments and corporations.

    He had a long career in IBM with over 20 years covering both technical assignments and corporate management, including overseas postings and responsibilities. Afterwards he served as president of the Washington Consulting Group, where he had direct oversight for major U.S. Federal Government contracts.

    Dr. Barquin was elected a National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) Fellow in 2012. He serves on the Cybersecurity Subcommittee of the Department of Homeland Security’s Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee; is a Board Member of the Center for Internet Security and a member of the Steering Committee for the American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council’s (ACT-IAC) Quadrennial Government Technology Review Committee. He was also the co-founder and first president of The Data Warehousing Institute, and president of the Computer Ethics Institute. His PhD is from MIT. 

    Dr. Barquin can be reached at rbarquin@barquin.com.

    Editor's note: More articles from Dr. Barquin are available in the BeyeNETWORK's Government Channel


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