SAP introduced a new software package that it says can help recipients of federal stimulus monies comply with reporting requirements mandated by the U.S. government.
The package, which can be deployed by non-SAP and SAP customers alike in a matter of weeks, includes special dashboard templates, with functionality from SAP BusinessObjects Xcelsius and Web Intelligence, aligned with the major categories of reporting requirements.
Customers who already have SAP BusinessObjects software can simply download the dashboard templates in the package at no additional charge under the terms of their licensing contracts, and lay them on top of whatever systems they currently use to store and track data.
"The general consensus among [CIOs] is this is really a new era … it's not an easy problem," said Sherry Amos, executive director, SAP industry services.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act pledged $787 billion to U.S. state governments with the promise to its citizens that such spending would be transparent. To that end, the federal government has set up a website -- Recovery.gov -- that is supposed to provide up-to-date data on the expenditure of the funds.
The SAP software package is modeled on the U.S. reporting requirements, but will serve as a template for reporting requirements mandated by stimulus funding in other countries, SAP said. More than 4,000 federal, state and local governments around the world use SAP's public sector ERP software -- nearly half of them in the U.S.
Even for public sector customers with sophisticated IT portfolios -- such as the State of Pennsylvania -- getting ready to comply with the requirements has been challenging. The state runs SAP's largest public sector deployment and purchased the entire SAP BusinessObjects platform in September.
The U.S. government hasn't been clear about exactly what they have to report, according to Naomi Wyatt, secretary of administration for the state of Pennsylvania. That's making it difficult to figure out which new tools will be necessary to produce reports by the government's mid-October deadline.
"This is a huge new set of requirements, and people aren't necessarily going to be prepared," Wyatt said. "We feel really lucky that we bought BusinessObjects last September."
Getting the proper tools in place to comply with the requirements will probably monopolize public sector IT's time for the next year. Like SAP, which has about 1,900 public sector customers in the U.S. that use its ERP software, other vendors are sensing the stimulus challenge. Recently, IBM unveiled a Cognos software package specifically designed to track the stimulus spending. It too is for both Cognos and non-Cognos customers, but pricing information wasn't available.
That said, software such as SAP is selling will actually be a big help in tracking the money, according to Wyatt.
Some of the money coming from the federal government is for programs that states already have in place and have tracking mechanisms for. In those cases, Wyatt thinks that a state can just pull data out of its SAP system for reports.
But there are other cases where the funding streams are brand new, or where the reports must include data they don't track in SAP.
For instance, in the Department of Transportation, the state uses SAP ERP for its finance and budget. However, the department also uses many project management tools that aren't tied into the SAP system. Items like the project start date or the number of people working on the site aren't entered into SAP, but they will be required in reports for tracking the stimulus money.
Pennsylvania hopes it can lay the SAP BusinessObjects software templates in this package on top of SAP and the third-party tools to pull the data it needs. It is currently rolling out some SAP BusinessObjects pilot projects. Some 80,000 state employees all have access to SAP BusinessObjects if they want to use it.
Specific pricing information for the new package wasn't released.
SAP is already looking toward how to accommodate the next round of federal requirements -- which will probably ask for more data on results from the stimulus spending. Amos said that SAP's strategy management and performance management software will be useful for this purpose.