The Obama administration's demand that government officials closely track and report how $787 billion in economic stimulus money is being spent was not lost on major software vendors such as SAP and IBM, which have quickly rolled out BI tools that are supposed to help meet the mandate. Smaller vendors, such as Actuate, have released similar applications as well.
However, while one user of IBM's new Cognos stimulus-tracking toolset expressed satisfaction with how it works, he also noted that the matter is a moving target, since the federal government may still fine-tune its reporting guidelines leading up to the first quarterly report deadline of Oct. 10.
SAP's new toolset, built with its BusinessObjects BI (business intelligence) software, is designed in modular fashion, with no need for an underlying SAP infrastructure, to ensure all agencies could tap it quickly, said Sherry Amos, executive director of industry strategy, public services.
And an IBM's new stimulus reporting tools came naturally, being "an extension of what we've always been doing," said Rob Dolan worldwide industry executive for government and education, BI and performance group.
The Arkansas Department of Education is already using the Cognos tools, said Bill Goff, assistant commissioner for fiscal and administrative services. The state has been a Cognos user for several years.
"Cognos approached us, and said they were developing a [stimulus] package," he said. "We thought it was the most expedient thing to do, and we're happy with the decision."
The tool will help the state roll up recovery funding reports from local school districts for submission to the federal government, which has opened the Recovery.gov Web portal to give the public access to the information.
Goff advises those in the market for similar tools to "get one that's flexible," given the further tweaks he anticipates the government will make to reporting rules and guidelines.
"As we go through, we're going to learn some things. We've got to stay flexible and adjust as we go," he said.
Vendors like IBM pledge they will do the same. "We'll revamp the application to account for anything," Dolan said.