The Department of Commerce’s Business Application Solutions (BAS) program – which aims to modernize the agency’s legacy financial systems – needs to develop a business practice reengineering plan and align its change effort processes with best practices, the agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) said in a management alert.

The alert says the OIG observed that Commerce lacked a business practice reengineering plan – which is a method by which organizations redesign how they work to cut costs and better support mission priorities. The report also says the department is leaning too heavily on technology to replace existing processes, rather than think through how to optimize processes.

“During our fieldwork, we observed that the BAS program lacks plans for business process reengineering and its ongoing process change efforts are not consistent with best practices,” the OIG said in a memo. “These conditions present risk that financial management processes may not be adequately supported by the new BAS system, which could ultimately lead to schedule delays and cost increases. This approach may also miss an opportunity to fundamentally improve how the Department conducts its financial business.”

The BAS program is still in its first phase, under a contract awarded about a year ago. The program is in the process of designing a common solution, and proceeding through four sprints throughout Fiscal Year 2021. The project is expected to conclude by the end of Fiscal Year 2024.

Among the best practices, the OIG said Commerce is not following, but should: the agency is not planning to create documentation of the current financial management processes; and is focusing on using new tech to replace existing processes, rather than engineer those processes. The latter is of particular concern for the OIG, which called it a misinformed approach to process change.

“This software-first approach is likely to force bureaus to change their processes within the limits imposed by the delivered system, rather than an approach that optimizes process alternatives—independent of technology—to be more efficient or effective,” the alert says.

While the OIG is not requesting a formal response to the alert, the office said any actions taken as a result will be considered in the OIG’s ongoing department-wide review of the BAS system.

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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.