Updated: Feb 2
The Office of the DoD Inspector General (IG) Government Accounting Office (GAO) Affairs branch is the focal point for all GAO audits and inquiries into the Department of Defense (DoD). With reduced manpower and no reduction in work load, the GAO Affairs team required a more efficient way of interacting with DoD organizations and personnel throughout the Audit Cycle. Specifically, they needed a way to coordinate and manage all coordination, meetings, information from interviews, and content generated during the GAO Audit process including accurately managing the authoritative content and critical communication between GAO Auditors and DoD organizations which was done using emails and file shares. It was really time consuming and unorganized due to data duplication, without versioning and un-managed storage that took DOD over a year to complete most of the GAO audits.
Documents associated with each audit were stored in every participant's inbox with multiple copies also saved by each person on local and network drives in many cases. With DoD-Wide Audits commonly involving well over 20 people receiving, storing, changing and forwarding documents. A 1 MB file could easily consume over 500MB-1GB of storage space across DoD. With hundreds of files commonly involved in these engagements that regularly extend for time frames beyond a year, having a central, authoritative location for users to work on and store content has tremendous advantages beyond basic storage costs and data security.
The DoD IG operates on its own proprietary network which was created for the purpose of restricting other DoD organizations from having access. This posed a significant obstacle to the GAO Affairs team who wanted to leverage their in-house Microsoft SharePoint collaboration platform to drive more effective collaboration with GAO and other DoD organizations throughout each Audit Life Cycle. The IG had a dedicated in-house SharePoint team but they were unable to produce results after several attempts. This was due to their lack of knowledge and experience in streamlining business process and integrating them into SharePoint using SharePoint and Knowledge Management best practices. Key GAO Affairs team requirements were:
Accessible, customizable virtual collaborative work spaces enabling GAO auditors to collaborate directly with DoD Primary and Collateral offices both synchronously and/or asynchronously
Private virtual location for GAO Affairs team to manage sensitive information
Customizable permissions from the site down to the item/document level
GAO IG Affairs team must be able to self-manage without significant developer dependencies
Ability to display dashboards with measures of performance and effectiveness
Ability to automate processes to maximum extent possible
ACES Group developed a fully functional, scalable, web content management system using free government Enterprise Services. The DoD IG team was not previously aware of these enterprise services and did not understand the importance of platform selection based on audience. ACES Group showed them how best to unite users from different government agencies, GAO and DoD in this case, in a way that enabled rich, virtual collaboration. ACES created a solution that centralized all parts of the audit process from initiation to execution, where some of the key solution elements are presented below:
We developed roles based DOD contacts list that enabled everyone to collaborate and communicate.
Our solution included document libraries that helped DOD to store information, processes and reports centrally and permission groups were used to limit access to sensitive content.
SharePoint calendars were used to organize and advertise meetings that included alert system to lets users be informed via email of any changes to events, or any content in lists or libraries for monitoring the changes.
Reports were drafted using co-authoring and routed for review and approvals using SharePoint workflows and online reviews.
The content management system model developed by ACES Group is currently being considered by GAO as a whole of Government solution. Its ability to scale to a Whole of Government solution is due to the proper selection of the platform/network on which it is hosted (Intelink.gov). The solution’s ability to satisfy business process requirements is largely the result of which application was chosen to develop the solution (SharePoint). This is also based on the IT professional’s ability to work with the process owner to streamline their process and implement it within the context of the SharePoint application model using SharePoint best practices for accomplishing the various components of the solution. This is where few IT professionals are able to operate and it is where ACES Group flourishes. The average GAO audit time was reduced from years to weeks and the head of the GAO Audit agency stated the ACES solution reduced their manpower requirement by 2 FTEs.