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Review of Acumen Solutions Stimulus Tracking and Recipient Transparency Application – START

written by: Brian Nelson • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 7/6/2011

As the river of federal spending to stimulate the economy continues to build, tracking the dollars received is becoming ever more important. Collecting the data and creating the reports can be a challenge. Acumen Solutions’ START application meets that challenge.

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    Economic Stimulus Tracking Solution

    Many governmental departments and agencies have tools in place that allow them to solicit bids for projects, award contracts based on those bids, and then monitor those contracts. However, economic stimulus dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are required to be spent quickly when an allocation is approved by the Federal Government. That means that many projects will be skipping some or all of those steps. Even more challenging is that specific, detailed, reports are required to be submitted quarterly and the data necessary for that reporting may not be the same data normally collected.

    acumen-1 Given enough time and resources creating and implementing new tracking solutions and procedures would still be an unenviable task. But, the fact is, there is no time. Stimulus dollars have already begun to flow thorough states, agencies and departments around the country. Millions have already been allocated and spent. The longer anyone waits, the harder it becomes to create and maintain the data.

    The solution is an application than can be up and running quickly so that the necessary management, tracking, and reporting can begin as soon as possible.

    Acumen Solutions has just such an offering. It’s Stimulus Tracking and Recipient Transparency Application, nicknamed START, provides comprehensive tracking and reporting of stimulus project spending and implementation.

    acumen-3 To get running as quickly as possible, START is a cloud-based application based on Salesforce.com’s Force.com platform. The web-based architecture requires no new servers to be installed, no new databases to be created and administered by DBAs already working on a three-month project list, no desktop upgrades. Any computer with a web browser is already capable of running START.

    For an even faster startup, Acumen Solutions offers a 30-day launch which includes installation and configuration, minor customizations, and user training. Additionally, stimulus award data can be pre-loaded directly from the OMB databases.

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    Powerful Dashboard Provides Reporting and Review

    The real power behind START is its web-based dashboard that allows the ability to quickly review entered data and reports, and make any corrections, as well as enter new data. The entire application is customized around reporting and managing economic stimulus funds, so the application work flow parallels the flow of stimulus spending.

    Stimulus award data can be pre-loaded directly from the OMD databases, reducing data entry errors and ensuring accurate starting data. For each funding record, multiple project records can be created, representing the various efforts that the stimulus dollars are being used for. Within each project record, multiple award records are created which detail the specific entities receiving funds and the dollar amounts granted.

    The data reported from each level is aggregated upward through the model until an analyst or manager using START can view the overall status of the allocation, as well as drill down into each level providing a single interface from which to monitor overall projects and determine where adjustments need to be made.

    The START system even handles the all important jobs reporting requirements. With critics becoming increasingly vocal about getting hard data on job creation from the economic stimulus, tracking and reporting how many jobs are created at each and every level is becoming paramount. When reports are made public, there will be calls for accountability on how those jobs numbers were calculated. For those entities running START, showing those details will be surprisingly easy.

    Generating those quarterly reports is easy with START. Once the data has been reviewed and signed off on by the appropriate people, a single click generates the XML-based report for each allocation, rolling up all of the necessary data from each project and sub-project so that nothing is left out. For users of START there will be no last minute scrambles to check and re-check the multiple levels of reports to find out what has been missing or double-counted when the final numbers don’t add up the way they should.

    With any stimulus tracking package, there is the issue of keeping the product up to date. Currently, the government has not even released the final reporting format that will be required to make the quarterly reports. When the template Is finally published, stimulus recipients can expect further tweaking as the public gains access to recovery.org and flaws or weak points are discovered In the data being reported.

    acumen-2 That is why START not only comes fully OMB compliant at installation, but an OMB synchronization service monitors ARRA regulations and updates the software to keep in sync with any new requirements or adjustments.

    The START application comes ready to run, but is also built to be extensible and customizable so that specific needs can be handled within the product making it fully usable for all end users.

    Acumen Solutions’ START offering provides the quick start-up and robust tracking and reporting that stimulus recipients need. With its intuitive and powerful dashboard and easy to use report generation, managing stimulus dollars just got a lot easier.