The approach: Placing the user at the heart of the model
To start, the team held a number of focus groups with the three main categories of users – the public, federal agencies and the news media – to better understand their information desires.
The process by which data is captured, mined and presented also required a complete re-think in order to speed up the delivery and processing. Per the project’s requirements, all of the information would be submitted weekly by federal agencies in the form of databases with standard formats. Beneficiaries of funding would have to file quarterly statements and this information would be ready for publication on the website within 30 days – a remarkable improvement over previous government websites.
There were three main elements to the project: the IT infrastructure behind the site, the site itself and the data to populate the site.
KPMG’s role was to oversee the data “backbone” of the website. Owing to innovative thinking and superior data engineering skills, and the strong partnership between the RATB and all members of Team Smartronix, there was a smooth flow of data into the web page by creating processes to extract information from multiple sources, fusing it into a centralized database and ultimately turning it into meaningful and user-friendly information for visitors to the site to read.
Teamwork of the highest order
“The phrase ‘seamless teamwork’ can sometimes be overused but in this case it summed up the working environment perfectly,” says Gaurav “GP” Pal, Smartronix Program Manager and Director. “It’s customary for the prime contractor to call all the shots but instead, every team member was fully empowered to deal directly with the client at the most senior levels and forge ahead. We couldn’t have delivered on time and to such a high standard without such mutual trust and responsibility.”
Results: Taking transparency to a new level
After just 11 weeks, the RATB, with the help of Team Smartronix, launched Recovery.gov 2.0 on the due date of 28 September 2009, in time for the first quarterly reporting period. The launch attracted considerable publicity across all major US media.
Some of the unprecedented capabilities include:
- tracking the flow of funds from federal agencies to multiple tiers of recipients, such as local vendors
- monitoring project progress by comparing money spent with work completed
- identifying different types of awards, such as loans, grants and contracts
- highlighting anomalies requiring further investigation.
- Transparency can only be achieved with the full commitment and involvement of government at the most senior levels. In the case of Recovery.gov, the ultimate client – the US government through the RATB – had a compelling vision and the courage to allow the implementation team to quickly come up with solutions and worked closely with Team Smartronix.
- To move at such pace requires very high levels of trust between all parties, with subcontractors fully empowered to make decisions and deal directly with the client.
- Research up front saves time and ensures the end deliverable meets the needs of its users – a highly user-friendly website that is easy to navigate and free of jargon, with different levels of complexity to suit different audiences.
- It’s important to build sustainability into the process, so that the website can be updated regularly once the external advisors have moved on.
With a 17-year history supporting military, federal, and commercial clients, Smartronix specializes in network operations, cyber security, enterprise software solutions, defense and commercial products.