- By Patricia Daukantas
- May 30, 2002
Bureau of Land Management's data warehousing strategy uses bytes to save bucks, burros and horses
Photos by Jerry Sintz - Oraqui Herd near Dugway, Utah
BLM rounds up wild horses and burros on overgrazed public range and puts them up for adoption. Dozens of scheduled adoptions appear at www.wildhorseandburro.blm. gov/schedule.htm.
The Bureau of Land Management measures its data warehousing success not just in dollars saved but also in wild animals rescued.
For nearly four years, BLM has connected its financial and performance data warehouses via an intranet. Delivering reports electronically to managers saved the bureau $1.6 million in the first year and helped one program find homes for an additional 2,000 wild horses and burros.
Managers can see performance results from other BLM offices soon after they are reported, 'instead of having to wait till the end of each year and then go through this massive exercise,' said Stan Curtis, a financial systems analyst in BLM's Phoenix office.
In 1997, BLM hired Advanced DataTools Corp. of Annandale, Va., to build a basic data warehouse for budget and financial information. Lester Knutsen, president of Advanced DataTools, said the warehouse uses Brio Intelligence Server software from Brio Software Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., plus Brio Explorer and Brio Designer desktop components. The budget and finance project, completed by March 1998, ran in parallel with the old paper reporting process until October of that year. BLM then ordered a second data warehouse to record measurements under the Government Performance and Results Act.Find best practices
Advanced DataTools created a series of templates for performance metrics, Knutsen said. At bureau headquarters in Washington, top managers set the goals and deadlines, and workers in the field offices enter their results.
Then the combined data warehouses compare program costs against performance measures, quickly highlighting the best practices.
Managers can choose text, numbers, charts or graphs to create their own reports, or they can rely on preprogrammed templates.
'With three clicks, you should be able to find' the desired data, Knutsen said.
Although the financial and GPRA data warehouses are separate, they reside on the same physical server, a Sun Microsystems Enterprise 10000. The Brio software permits queries across multiple databases and warehouses.
Before the first warehouse went online, BLM's National Business Center in Denver had to print out paper reports and send them to more than 150 offices across the country. Then each office had to re-enter the data into spreadsheets. Sometimes data was six weeks old by the time it got to field offices.
Any employee with intranet access can now read data with the Brio reporting tool within a day or two of its entry, said Terry Brokovich, BLM's adviser for business and fiscal resources. Brokovich manages the data warehousing projects.
It used to be complicated to modify the paper reports. 'First of all, you'd get it late,' Brokovich said, and then programmers had to customize it. Now, managers can customize the budget, financial and GPRA reports.
The data warehouse gets daily updates from BLM's budget office, which runs the Federal Financial System application from American Management Systems Inc. of Fairfax, Va.
In its first year, the warehouse project cost $1.2 million, so the savings 'basically paid for it,' Knutsen said.Adopt a burro
BLM's National Wild Horse and Burro Program, which removes excess animals from public lands and puts them up for adoption, measures its success from the data warehouse, too.
Curtis said the bureau went through an activity-based cost exercise in 1998 to comply with GPRA. It used the data warehouse to see how many animals the program was collecting from overgrazed public lands and how much it spent to feed them.
As a result, BLM changed the program's schedule, Curtis said. BLM workers used to capture animals and leave them in feedlots until someone adopted them.
Now, workers capture animals just before scheduled adoptions, Curtis said, freeing up funds to capture more animals.
In fiscal 1998, BLM collected slightly more than 5,700 animals. After changing the process, it collected more than 7,700 animals in fiscal 1999. Over the same period, the cost to hold and feed the animals dropped by $600,000, Curtis said.