|Originally Broadcast August 30, 2008
Announcer: Welcome to The Business of Government Hour, a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The Business of Government Hour is produced by The IBM Center for The Business of Government, which was created in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. You can find out more about this center by visiting us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. And now .
And now, The Business of Government Hour.
Mr. Morales: Good morning. I'm Albert Morales, your host and managing partner of The IBM Center for The Business of Government.
Today, our nation's ability to sustain a growing economy and a rising standard of living depends in part on continued advances in science and technology. With one of the richest and most diverse missions in the federal government, the U.S. Department of Energy also represents the single largest supporter of research in the physical sciences. To successfully meet its varied and complex missions, DOE must manage its resources efficiently and foster physical discipline.
With us this morning to discuss DOE's efforts in this area is our very special guest, Owen Barwell, Deputy Chief Financial Officer at the U.S. Department of Energy.
Good morning, Owen. Good to see you again.
Mr. Barwell: Good morning, Al. Good to be here.
Mr. Morales: Also joining us in our studio is Dennis Kaizer, partner in IBM's Federal Civilian Practice.
Good morning, Dennis.
Mr. Morales: Owen, I always like to start off by providing our listeners with some context around the organization, in this case, the Department of Energy. Can you take a few minutes to give us an overview of Energy's history and mission?
Mr. Barwell: Yes, of course. The Department has its roots in the Manhattan Project, originally started in 1942, where we really did invest in the technology that created the nuclear weapons programs that really won the Second World War, and also the Cold War in the late '50s, '60s, and '70s.
Today, the Department is very much broader than that. The Department itself was formed in 1977 to address the emerging energy crisis at that time. Today, we really have four major areas that we focus on in the Department. Firstly, energy security. And it's really about promoting America's energy security through reliable, clean, and affordable energy. It covers our nuclear generation capabilities, energy efficiency, our fossil programs.
A second area is in nuclear security, where we really do focus on ensuring America's nuclear security and the safety and maintenance of our nuclear weapons stockpile.
You mentioned the scientific part of our organization. We are really focused on scientific discovery and innovation. Through our national labs, we strengthen the U.S.' scientific discovery, economic competitiveness, and improve the quality of life through innovations in science and technology.
And finally, we have a significant role to play in environmental responsibility. We invest very heavily in protecting the environment, and provide a responsible resolution to the environmental legacy of our nuclear weapons program in the past.
Mr. Morales: You talk a little bit about these four broad areas, but can you give us a sense of the scale of operations over at DOE? And perhaps you could tell us a bit more about how it's organized, the overall budget, perhaps the number of employees?
Mr. Barwell: Yes, of course. We are a large organization; our budget is approaching $24 billion. We're quite highly leveraged in terms of the number of people that are associated with the Department, and we have 15,000 federal employees, but just over a 100,000 contractors supporting the Department of Energy's mission.
Mr. Morales: That is a very highly leveraged ratio.
Mr. Kaizer: Owen, now that you've given us the broader overview of the Department, perhaps you could tell us more about your specific role and your department, such as what are your specific responsibilities as a Deputy Chief Financial Officer, and what type of organization is under your purview, your budget and your staff?
Mr. Barwell: That's a good question, Dennis, thank you. The Deputy CFO role is defined in the CFO Act of 1990, and I won't dull you with the details of the Act, but it creates two positions. The CFO of the organization, which is a political role, it's a Presidentially-nominated, Senate-confirmed position, and provides the political oversight as well as the financial management oversight within a particular organization.
The Deputy CFO position is a civil servant position. It's a federal employee, and the role there primarily is to provide continuity between political transitions; plays a very important role during that time.
In my organization -- I have roughly 250 people at the headquarters operations in both D.C. and also in Forestville. There -- I have a number of organizational units in my organization, from financial management accounting to budgeting to running the corporate business systems within the organization. We also have an analytic capability within our organization, a new cost analysis department , program analysis and evaluation, and finally, an operations organization that supports the size of our organization in very basic things like human capital, procurement, et cetera.
Mr. Kaizer: It sounds like the Deputy CFO office itself is a large and complex organization. So within the context of that, what would you consider your top challenges, and what have you done to address those challenges?
Mr. Barwell: Well, again in my short time at the Department, I think my challenges are in a couple of areas. Firstly, just the personal challenge of coming into an organization like the Department of Energy at this level and being able to get up to speed very quickly in terms of what we do as a CFO organization, as well as what we do as a department.
I think it's imperative for effective financial management oversight control that we go beyond just the numbers and really understand what an organization does. So it's been very challenging for me to get up to speed very quickly as to what my organization does, as well as what the mission of the Department of Energy is, too.
I think the second piece to that is what I have quickly discovered is a human capital crisis. Although when I arrived, we had 196 staff in my organization, we needed to staff up to about 250. And though we've been relatively successful in meeting that target, when I actually look at the profile of my organization across the Department, out of the 860 or so finance professionals in our organization, we estimate that in five years' time, a third of my employees will actually be retiring. So this represents a pretty significant work force shortfall in a very short period of time.
So the challenges are twofold. Me just getting up to speed, getting to understand my organization and the Department, but very quickly realizing that in order to get financial management done in the Department, we really have to address some pretty significant human capital challenges.
Mr. Morales: Owen, along with a previous stint at NASA, I understand that you came to DOE more immediately from the private sector. Could you tell us a bit about your career path? How did you get started, and what brought you to your current position at DOE?
Mr. Barwell: Of course. You can probably tell from my accent that I'm not born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. I arrived in the U.S. in November of '97. I came on a detail with Coopers & Lybrand Consulting, which eventually became Pricewaterhouse Consulting, with the merger with Pricewaterhouse
I was in the consulting business here in the D.C. area for about five years. And in my last year, I actually had NASA as a client, undertaking a couple of pretty interesting studies at the time. And NASA experienced a change in leadership; I was asked if I was willing to come on board and actually implement some of the things that I was recommending.
And I was made an offer I could not refuse, which turned out to be less money, longer working hours, and I had to wear a suit pretty much all of the time, too. Nevertheless, the 3-1/2 years I was at NASA were quite fascinating for someone that was born and raised in the middle of England, to be able to have the chance to work in an organization like NASA and see what NASA did upfront very close was really quite a privilege.
And then went back into the private sector with an organization called Anser, also known as Analytic Services. And I was with them for about a couple of years. And I was approached and recruited to see if I was interested in coming back into the public sector as the Deputy CFO at the Department of Energy, which -- I went through the usual competitive hoops and ended up joining them in November in the last year.
Mr. Morales: That's fantastic. Owen, as you sort of reflect back to your years in consulting, your first opportunity with NASA, back to consulting, and now back to the government, how have these experiences shaped your management and leadership style? And what lessons have you learned along the way that you perhaps are beginning to roll out in your current role at DOE?
Mr. Barwell: That's a great question. And it's something that I asked myself both joining NASA and also the Department of Energy. It's easier to define what I am not. And my predecessor Jim Campbell had an over 30-year career with the Department of Energy. And clearly, I'm not going to bring that level of depth and understanding to something I'm not going to be able to compete with, but as I look back in my career, I actually jotted down all of the organizations I've worked for or consulted to in a significant capacity, and that number totals about 30 organizations.
So what I can bring is a different perspective of organizations, whether that's working here in the U.S. or in Europe and the U.K, in more strategic work, whether it's the tactical side of implementing business systems. What I think I can bring and draw upon is that different perspective, the experiences that I've gained in different organizations across different industry sectors, in different continents, and recognize quite clearly that I'm not a 30-year veteran of the Department of Energy.
What I really like about public service is the degree -- the high level of personal responsibility that it brings. Instead of advising to organizations when you actually have the personal responsibility to get stuff done, it really is quite thrilling, quite enthralling to be able to enjoy that.
Mr. Morales: That's great.
How is the Department of Energy improving its financial performance? We will ask Owen Barwell, Deputy Chief Financial Officer, to share with us when we return on The Business of Government Hour.
Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Owen Barwell, Deputy Chief Financial Officer at the U.S. Department of Energy.
Also joining us from IBM is Dennis Kaizer.
Owen, in the last OMB score card, almost half of the rated federal agencies received either a yellow or a red rating in improving financial performance. What has your organization done to progress and improve over the last year to gain a green rating in progress? And can you tell us from your perspective why this is such a challenging area for many federal agencies?
Mr. Barwell: Al, what I'd like to do is recognize the performance of my staff in this area. As I mentioned, I started at the Department in November of last year. In fact, my first day, I got to take a trip up to our offices in Germantown and celebrate with our financial management staff there the success of regaining our clean audit opinion.
I think, Al, this spans more than just the efforts of last year. In FY05, mostly due to the implementing a new financial management system, plus many other reasons, we lost our clean audit opinion. We were able to work very hard and get a qualified audit opinion in FY06, and finally for FY07, get a clean audit opinion. Implementing new systems -- that task is very, very difficult. And it took us three years, the best part of three years to get out of that situation and actually get into a routine where we can actually get our clean audit opinion back.
The emphasis this year has really been on trying to sustain that clean audit opinion for both financial management and performance improvement. We've been green and green for most the quarters, if not all of the quarters so far this year. For other federal agencies, again, I think it's important to recognize that as we have made a huge investment as a community in new finance systems, that this job is actually very, very difficult. The systems expose problems with data integrity; they require different organizations, skills, and competencies to be able to operate them, and new business processes, too.
In organizations as complex and of the size of departments and agencies, it really is a challenge to get these business systems and programs implemented and underway in a very sustainable way.
Mr. Morales: Touching on this point of the unqualified opinion, Owen, can you tell us what's the significance of this clean opinion, and what are the keys to successfully achieving a timely and a clean opinion?
Mr. Barwell: I think it depends on the organization, but those that I have been involved with -- NASA, and more recently the Department of Energy -- it is of I think a high degree of significance to get a clean opinion. It's certainly a very clear and visible measure of financial management and the integrity of financial data within an organization, within a CFO Council, amongst my peers, and also within the Department of Energy, too.
When we lost our clean opinion, this event actually attracted the attention of the Secretary, and it was something that he, given his private sector background, was very keen to be able to fix. So I think it is very significant to get a clean audit opinion, as it is a very clear and demonstrable measure of success of running finance systems and financial management generally.
I think from how an organization manages itself, it provides another aspect, too. And that is by getting a clean opinion, it provides a degree of integrity that the programmatic community can actually rely on the data, too. And without a clean opinion -- and I've been in an organization without one -- it's very difficult to convince the programmatic community to use and rely on the underlying finance data. And so getting that external check, that external validation of financial integrity of the underlying data is I think very, very important, both visibly externally, but also internally, in how an organization actually runs itself.
As to the keys, there's time enough for another interview on that one. It is -- again, I think, it's linked to how you implement new finance systems, as I think -- that's where we, most of us in the CFO Council community have made investments. The keys are really about understanding just the magnitude of efforts like that, to make sure that data is cleaned up, that systems are implemented in a way that people understand how to operate them, and to keep a clear executive management focus on operating these systems and business processes as they're rolled out. It's really got to be upfront and personal with the executives and managers within an organization. It's got to be important within that organization.
Mr. Kaizer: Owen, along the lines of performance management and improvement, I understand that your department participated in OMB's Performance and Accountability Report pilot. Could you tell us more about the purpose of this pilot called PAR? Specifically, to what extent does it actually reduce reporting and process burden? And how did it enable your department to better integrate its reporting and reduce those redundant processes?
Mr. Barwell: That's a good question. You're right, we did participate in that PAR pilot. I think fundamentally, the pilot has challenged the purpose of financial statements and other annual reports that we produce across the government. For us, the advantage was absolutely, did we cut back on reporting requirements and burdens? Yes we did, but I think what we ended up publishing is a set of documents that really does address the end stakeholders a little more. We're by no means perfect in this.
But I think as an organization, we did really sit down and think about our external stakeholders and their needs in understanding what the Department does, how we measure and report our successes and areas that we need to improve in, and at the same time release some of that burden of producing reports that quite frankly are not read or enacted upon.
Mr. Kaizer: So staying with the theme of program performance, what are some other ways in which your office engages in program evaluation to ensure that Energy's programs are meeting their intended objectives?
Mr. Barwell: I think this, Dennis, comes back to the role of the CFO within an organization. And I see the role of the CFO having a very much an evolving footprint. I think if you look at the more traditional role of a CFO and a CFO organization, it's very much focused on transaction processing, making sure that we're reporting our finances, some degree of internal control, and very, very little to actually support the decisions that are made in an organization.
I think in both the pubic sector and the private sector, that footprint is evolving. It's advancing to spend less time through the use of e-business systems, business processes, different skills and competencies, less time on transaction processing.
We for example have outsourced our payroll activities to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. We have invested a lot in internal controls through our A-123 program, and improved I think performance in that area. We are using technologies to enable financial reporting, and this I think is freeing up a good deal more time, resource, and effort to be able to support the major decisions that are made in the Department. So we're trying to build capability, skills and competencies and actually using that data, turning that into information that ultimately will enable the decisions, the major decisions that are made in the Department.
So our organization is actually very -- I think in that role quite new. But we have created an associate CFO position that will oversee our Office of Budget, our Program Analysis and Evaluation Office, and also a new office that we have stood up, our cost analysis group.
So the role of the CFO as I see it is changing. And we are getting a lot more involved in moving away from more of the compliance activities into really getting to understand the performance of our programs in the Department.
Mr. Morales: Owen, there's been a fair amount of discussion around the need for revisions to financial reporting models, to better address the unique needs of the federal government. Can you discuss the existing challenges in financial reporting, and any initiatives underway to address those challenges?
Mr. Barwell: Thanks, Al. Yes. I think there is an emerging conversation about financial reporting within the U.S. government, and really challenging the way that we do things at the moment. It's clear to me that the CFO Act of 1990 really did lay the foundations for some very good things. We all implemented financial management systems that made sense. We produced financial statements in an auditable form, and it really has introduced a discipline within the financial management community.
However, we have adopted what I would consider a private sector model in how we produce our financial statements, how we report our finances in the government. The private sector produces financial statements that are audited -- primarily, if you think about it -- for raising capital, and we are not in the business of raising capital as the public sector. We should produce financial statements that give our key constituents, the U.S. taxpayers, some confidence that we have actually spent our money on how we've been enacted to spend that money, and we've done that in a very efficient and effective manner.
So I think there is an emerging conversation amongst the CFO community about the future of financial statements. This actually is one of the biggest hiccups for some of the departments and agencies that do not have a clean audit opinion, in that when you actually peel back and understand why they have not qualified or they don't have clean opinions on their financial statements, it really does come down to a very technical issue from an accounting perspective, one that doesn't really, even that issue is resolved, give any more comfort that of the financial integrity of the organization anyway.
So I think this is a scenario that I think we'll see a lot more conversation on, and a lot more questioning about the purpose of financial statements in the U.S. government.
Mr. Morales: So that's really new territory. Great. Owen, you mentioned earlier cost analysis. What steps has Energy taken to track and manage its costs and link it back to performance? And what about efforts to implement an activity-based costing/ management system?
Mr. Barwell: Al, I think we are at the very early stages of looking at that. I mentioned the evolving footprint of the CFO. I think we have as an organization been very focused on playing the traditional role of a CFO. We've run a lot of transactions; we've reported out our financials, we've got some degree of internal controls in place. But I think over the last three to five years, with our iManage program, as well as some external drivers like the equivalent of Sarbanes-Oxley for the government, the A-123 program, we've invested heavily in an organization to try to actually free up the resources to focus more on -- to support the decisions that are made in the Department.
I think we're at a very early stage of that. We've invested heavily in our business systems infrastructure to actually to give us the data, and I think we're about to embark on the next phase of our investments in the Department, and that is to actually use that data, convert it into information, and actually give us some insight into what's going on in the organization. I think that is very much in line with the evolving footprint of the CFO.
Mr. Morales: Owen, over the last seven years, there's been much focus on management reform and accountability through the PMA, the President's Management Agenda. How do you see this agenda evolving with the transition to a new administration?
Mr. Barwell: It's a good question, Al. It's a similar sort of question that's being amongst the CFO community. I think I'll go back to when the PMA, the President's Management Agenda, was actually launched. And I remember at the time talking to some of the authors of the President's Management Agenda about a year or two after it was implemented, and I think even they were surprised at this success of the PMA and how it had actually taken amongst the departments and agencies that were required to report against it
The purpose of the PMA, it really set out some expectations, what the political community actually wanted out of the folks managing departments and agencies. And I think the managers and the executives of the departments and agencies at the time actually appreciated that. For once, it was actually clear what those expectations were.
This score-carding provided, even though very simple red, yellow, green, a way to hold organizations accountable and provide some visibility into their performance. And to their credit, OMB actually recognized where people were in terms of their scores, but also the level of effort they were putting into trying to solve some of their management challenges as well.
If you think about the PMA and what it has been trying to achieve, that is setting very clear expectations about management performance, providing a degree of accountability and visibility by scoring departments and agencies and publishing those scores, I don't think that that is going to go away. I think that sort of framework, that construct, is with us whether we like it or not. In fact, it would be very, very difficult to argue against having those expectations, accountability, and visibility of performance. Even though the name may change with a political transition, I think fundamentally, that framework is with us to stay.
Mr. Morales: That's great.
How is the Department of Energy transforming its financial management system? We will ask Owen Barwell, Deputy Chief Financial Officer, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.
Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Owen Barwell, Deputy Chief Financial Officer of the U.S. Department of Energy.
Also joining in our studios from IBM is Dennis Kaizer.
Owen, given your perspective, how has the role of the government CFO changed over the last decade, and to what extent has this change enabled government CFOs to provide leadership in promoting efficient management in government resources and assets?
Mr. Barwell: Al, that's a great question, and I think I've already touched on what I call the evolving footprint of the Office of the CFO, or the CFO itself. And it has changed, and I think it will continue to change as we move away from large organizations that focus on transaction processing and financial reporting and fiscal controls and very, very little on decision-support. I think the changing role of the CFO is to be an organization where we actually use technology, new business processes, different skill-sets, capabilities, and focus less on the transaction processing, either through outsourcing, or actually using technology to automate a lot of our work.
We use financial reporting tools that are already available to us. In fact, we should all recognize that we are able to generate quarterly financial statements and our annual financial statements within 15 days of closing our books, which is for an organization of our size, in fact, a tremendous capability. Again, it's something that should not go unrecognized in any way.
We've invested heavily in our fiscal controls, relying on commercial off-the-shelf business systems as well as investing heavily in our A-123 Program to implement Sarbanes-Oxley-like internal controls in our organization.
The role of the CFO is not only taking care of those particular activities, but now are actually using the data that we generate to turn that into information to help us in supporting the significant and key decisions that are made in the Department.
So I see the role of the government CFO, it definitely has changed and I think it will continue to change and evolve as we continue our investments in new ways of working. And not to be disingenuous to bean counters, but we really are moving from being a bean counter to really one of a business partner in the organization.
Mr. Morales: That's great, that's great. Owen, this obviously brings up IMANAGE. Can you talk a little bit about what this is, and how does it seek to achieve improved financial and business efficiencies?
Mr. Barwell: Yes. IMANAGE is, for want of a better term, our business transformation program. It's has been around for several years now. In fact, we implemented the PeopleSoft HR human resources solution in 1999. We also implemented Oracle Financials, our accounting system, in April of 2005, and we continued with the program implementing our procurement solution, it's the Compusearch PRISM product. We're rolling that out right now and we're also in the design phase of implementing a new budget system using Cognotes and document amidst the software platform to enable that new system.
But it's more than just implementing systems. What I'm really looking for in iManage is not only implementing those systems successfully, but really thinking about how we do business and changing our business processes to be more effective and efficient, and making sure that we have the right organization in place to be able to operate those business systems and the business processes that go with it.
Mr. Morales: So as a follow-up, given the complexity and the magnitude of the iManage program, could you highlight for us some of the key lessons that you've learned so far from this effort?
Mr. Barwell: Yes. I draw upon my experience at NASA, too, where I was in their business transformation program for just over three years. I think the key thing is not to just focus on implementing systems. You really got to look at the business processes that you're changing, take advantage of new systems implementations to re-engineer those processes to be more efficient, more effective, and last but not least, you really have to look at the people-side of things.
I think you can invest heavily in business systems and the systems architecture to make sure whether these systems are not going to fail. Inherent within these business systems come business processes that you have a degree of flexibility to operate, but not much.
But what makes these systems, these types of programs successful, are the people. If you actually look at statistically in terms of the population of people adopting new technology, typically, half the people will be with you and half of you will be very, very late to adopt this.
So employing effective change management strategies to make sure that you really do have executive sponsorship, that you have sponsorship at the middle management level, and you invest in your people to be able to operate these new systems and business processes; that really, really is quite critical. And very often, the easy thing to do is invest in IT, hardware and software and not invest in the training in the organizational development types of activities that you need to be able to operate these programs successfully.
Mr. Kaizer: As you know, the private sectors work closely with the federal government to assist in improving financial systems and processes, through conducting financial statement audits and even performing financial operations, but in your view, what can the private sector do to better improve efficiency and effectiveness of our government's financial management?
Mr. Barwell: Dennis, I think it's really about innovation, and I look at that in two ways. One is to really understand the needs of the federal government and also to try and apply best practices that have been derived, understood, and applied in the private sector also. So it's really about innovation, bringing new ideas, thoughts, methods, tools, systems into the federal government to really help us get those efficiencies and try and be effective in our financial management operations.
Mr. Kaizer: I'd like to switch gears a little bit here. Could you tell us about cfojobs.gov? What are some of its key features, and to what extent does it actually provide a one-stop shop for folks seeking federal financial management opportunities?
Mr. Barwell: Yeah, this is a project of ours that we're running at the Department of Energy, but it's really -- our sponsor is the CFO Council, and we are working with the Office of Personnel Management and the folks at the usajobs.gov, too, in this effort.
If you think about what I've already talked about my organization, across the Department of Energy, we have about 860 finance professionals and we forecast that in five years, we'll lose about a third of those people through retirements. I think the number is around 59,000 -- I think that is the number of financial management professionals across the government -- 59,000. If you imagine the same sort of work force profile, we're going to be losing a third of those folks, too. So just making sure that we have -- we can use new technology, new ways of working, re-engineered processes to allow us - to enable us to be able to do more with less, but we are going to have to recruit to fill some of that gap, that shortage, very clearly.
And cfojobs is a very early attempt to build a community around financial management, to be able to attract talent into financial management within the U.S. government. We have a beta site available at the moment, it's at www.cfojobs.gov. We will be improving the existing site over time to introduce commonly-referred-to Web2.0 types of technologies.
So we're trying to generate a buzz and interest in financial management in the government, to attract talent into financial management in the U.S. government. And this we see as a useful tool to enable us to be able to do that. It's not going to solve the issue entirely, but if we can actually build a sense of community around financial management in the government, I think this will go a long way to be able to help.
Mr. Kaizer: You spoke a little bit about innovation and performance management. However, there seems to be a growing perception that some federal finance and budgeting organizations are becoming more compliance-oriented as opposed to actually providing analysis to policymakers and program managers. So given your perspective, is there any validity to such perception? And if there is, what can be done to move beyond the trend?
Mr. Barwell: Well, I think reality is perception. I think we are labored by further compliance-oriented requirements in our organization, but I don't think that is anything new, and nor is it likely to change, I don't think. In fact, one of my assumptions when I look at my work force profile -- I may be losing a third to retirement but I'm also recognizing that in five years, that we're actually going to get more and more work to do. So the actual work force gap is bigger than that third. It's more like 40 or 50 percent of potential workload.
But again, I come back to what I see as our evolving footprint. We are not going to get away from any of these compliance-oriented activities, but I think there will be even more demand to provide that informed analysis. We are trying to establish a culture where we are professionals, that we work hard and play hard, we try to meet the high expectations of our customers, but that we're also smart money, and we are more than just the numbers. We go beyond the numbers, we're curious, we're dogged with our analysis, we provide the truth. We are striving to be sought out as an independent arbiter and adviser. We run all of our business systems within the Department, so we are expecting be asked to have a seat at the table when many of the major decisions are being made.
So we are not quite there yet, and I think we are recognizing that our footprint is evolving, and we need to create a new culture to be able to reflect that. But I don't think we're going to get away from the compliance work. It's a way of life with the CFO.
Mr. Morales: Owen, earlier, you used the term "enablers." To what extent do you see the increasing use of social networking technologies such as blogs and wikis as tools in communicating the importance of accountability and progress in performance?
Mr. Barwell: It's a good question, Al. In fact, I have an interest in these kinds of technologies. At the Department, I've initiated and sponsored the development and soon-to-be-rolled-out portal. This portal encompasses some of the technologies that you talked about in terms of blogs and wikis, and a valuable tool in communicating across our financial management community.
For me, the problem that we're trying to solve here is that we have actually invested very heavily in business systems. And now it's our job to try and integrate the data amongst those business systems, and really trying to turn that data into information to enable the decisions that are being made in the Department. So again, this is a way that I think we can use these sorts of technologies to enable our evolving footprint in the culture that we're trying to create in the organization.
Mr. Morales: What does the future hold for the U.S. Department of Energy? We will ask Owen Barwell, Deputy Chief Financial Officer, to share with us when we return on The Business of Government Hour.
Mr. Morales: Welcome back to our final segment of The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Owen Barwell, Deputy Chief Financial Officer at the U.S. Department of Energy.
Also joining us in our studios from IBM is Dennis Kaizer.
Owen, I talk with many of my guests around the topic of collaboration. What kinds of partnerships are you developing now to improve operations or outcomes at Energy, and how may these partnerships change over time?
Mr. Barwell: I think, Al, I'll answer this question by looking at what we're doing externally as well as what we're doing internally. As I've already mentioned, I'm a relatively new recruit into the Department of Energy. But I think it's important for our office to be playing a role within the U.S. government at that level. So we are very active in the CFO Council. Myself and my boss, the CFO Steve Isakowitz, I think play a pretty strong role within the CFO Council. Steve chairs the Human Capital taskforce as part of the Council, for example. So we're trying to get more and more exposure of our office across the U.S. government.
I'm also interested in making sure we are linked into the private sector as well. You asked about how the private sector can play a role in partnering with the public sector, and again tapping into innovation and new ideas, different ways of working in the private sector is an important piece of that. And I've been encouraging the Corporate Executive Board to take some of their knowledge, their learning, their experience of the CFO Roundtable that they run and being able to apply that to the public sector also.
So we're trying to get a little more exposure, a little more visibility outside of the Department itself and play a role at the U.S. government level, in both the established organizations like the CFO Council, but also trying to establish partnerships with other organizations like the Corporate Executive Board. Within our organization, we've done a few things to promote collaboration. For the first time in five or six years in May this year, we ran our own CFO conference. We had 150 people from around the country descend on Denver, where we spent two or three days understanding what was going on in the CFO organization as a whole.
In fact, it was successful on a few fronts. Firstly, we were able for the first time to share knowledge and experience across that community. Secondly, I heard a number of people actually appreciate getting to meet people for the first time face-to-face, having spent several years e-mailing or talking to each other on the phone, so really a big win for the community to get people introduced to each other. And finally, at conferences like this, I'm usually one of the last out of the bar in the evening. And when I was leaving to go to bed, there were still plenty of people in the bar.
So I think it helped us a good deal to get together as a community and get to know each other professionally and socially, too. We talked about the portal that I'm sponsoring and investing in, making sure we're using latest technology to promote collaboration across the Department. And we're also focusing on communications, too. Very simple things like a monthly newsletter, which we publish to all of our financial management professionals across the Department. So I think we're doing a lot in the collaboration space, whether externally with new organizations, established organizations, but also internally, too, and really focusing on collaborating as a community across the Department.
Mr. Kaizer: Owen, you mentioned the Chief Financial Officers Council, but I'd like to you to tell us a little bit more about that. Specifically, can you tell us about the financial system's FSIO Oversight Transformation Team, which I understand you lead for the Council?
Mr. Barwell: Indeed I do, and perhaps it's -- I don't know whether being the newest Deputy CFO in that community, it's that person that gets tasked and labored with chairing the transformation team. It's a role that I was actually very flattered to be asked to get involved with and very happy to do so and try and shape the agenda of the financial management line of business too.
Very simply, I think there has been some history with the financial management line of business. And I think we're at a point where we are thinking about the future of this line of business. I think we all believe in standardization, financial management across the government. We should consolidate operations wherever possible, where we can either reduce cost, improve service or both, optimize our investments in the systems, and the new ways of working that we've adopted.
What I'm trying to do in that group is introduce the concept of a calculated choice. I think rather than go for a cookie-cutter one-size-fits-all solution for financial management in the government, we've really got as departments and agencies to think about how do we actually adopt the principles of standardization, consolidation, and optimization, and do that in a way that it makes sense for the individual department or agency.
And we're working through that. I think what you'll see from that community in the next 12 months or so is defining financial management business processes, data requirements and structures, and working with the software vendors to make sure that we get those requirements in a standard configuration for software that will be developed by them and be implemented by us in the very near future.
Mr. Morales: Owen, I'd like to transition out to the future. Can you give us a sense of some of the key issues and trends that will affect CFOs government-wide over the next few years?
Mr. Barwell: Absolutely. Number one is human capital. I talked about our work force profile, and I think we can make the assumption safely that that profile is similar across other departments and agencies, too. So when you're faced with the retirement wave that is coming our way -- in fact, there are some examples of -- in some areas that it's already upon us at the Department -- this is going to be the number one issue that we're going to have to focus our time and attention on.
The way we solve it is through effective recruitment, being able to attract talent, and hire talent in an efficient manner, but also leveraging the investment that we made in our business systems. Our iManage program, for example, I see as an enabler to in part help us do more with less. And that will plug some of the human capital gap that will be coming our way.
Mr. Morales: So as you sort of reflect on some of these challenges, how do you envision your office will need to evolve over the next couple of years?
Mr. Barwell: Again, Al, I think it's human capital. If we are to continue our evolution, our evolving footprint, if we really do want to play the role of helping and enabling the important decisions that are made in the Department, we are going to have to have the right skills, the right people, the right competencies in place to enable that to happen. I think we've done a lot in terms of business systems, in terms of business processes. But I think the next emphasis is really going to be on our organization and our people, making sure we have the right talent in the right places to achieve that footprint. It's not going to happen overnight, absolutely not, but I think if we take advantage of the retirement wave, I think we can shape our organization to really fit that evolving footprint in the future.
Mr. Morales: It's interesting, given all the technologies that we have, that at the end of the day, it really is still a people business.
Mr. Barwell: Absolutely.
Mr. Morales: Owen, given your recent transition back to the federal government, what advice might you give to a person who is out there considering a career in public service, perhaps with a focus on financial management?
Mr. Barwell: That's a great question, Al, and I don't want to repeat the fact -- the offer that I was made in NASA, which was actually less money, longer hours, and I had to wear a suit pretty much most of the time. But I will say that working in public service, working for the federal government does actually provide some very, very unique opportunities. We do things that the private sector cannot.
I enjoy, I believe, a level of personal responsibility that I would not be able to achieve in the private sector either. It is an environment, too, that is not driven by the bottom line. It's a clear distinction between the public sector and the private sector. And as a result, it's a very different work environment. And I've worked in both the public sector and the private sector, and it's actually quite refreshing not to be driven by the bottom line from time to time.
I'm a recent U.S. citizen. For me, it's a chance to give back to the country. I encourage everyone that really is thinking about a career in public service to pursue it. I think what we are not going to see these days are folks that are coming into federal service, public service and build a career that lasts 30-plus years. I think what we will see is the next generation of federal employees will be in here for three to five years, maybe 10 years, with experience in both the public and private sector.
So I do encourage people to take a look at it. I think again there are some unique opportunities to pursue. You get a lot of responsibility early and it's a different environment to work in when you're not driven by the bottom line. And most importantly, it's the way to give back and contribute to the country. It really is a treat to be able to serve in this role.
Mr. Morales: That's great, thank you.
Owen, unfortunately, we have reached the end of the time now. I do want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule. But more importantly, Dennis and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to our country across your roles at NASA and now the Department of Energy.
Mr. Barwell: Thanks, Al. And it's been my pleasure to sit and talk to both yourself and Dennis. If I might, a quick plug -- as you can imagine my conversation here on human capital, that we are hiring -- so any one that is interested in joining the Department, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
A lot of the work that I've talked about here, I can take very, very little credit for and really do have to apply the credit to the team that has made -- all that has been made possible today. They really are a good bunch of people, and it's a pleasure to be able to work with them. And finally, if you want to learn more about the Department of Energy, please feel free to visit our website at www.energy.gov.
Mr. Morales: Great, thank you.
This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Owen Barwell, Deputy Chief Financial Officer at the U.S. Department of Energy. My co-host has been Dennis Kaizer, partner in IBM's Federal Civilian practice.
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For The Business of Government Hour, I'm Albert Morales, thank you for listening.
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