Leveraging the strengths of XML technology, Project Performance Corporation (PPC) recently developed a document generation tool for the Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Management (EM) that takes into account business processes that are particular to a majority of standardized government reports.
Automating the Document Generation Process for Federal Agencies
Improved reporting and document generation capabilities are crucial to increased accountability in both the private and public sector. As a result, there is a growing need among businesses and government agencies to invest in information technology tools that are capable of automating the generation of complex, multi-source documents and reports. For many organizations, moving from an offline paper-driven process to the use of an IT tool can be quite overwhelming. In order to allow for a more seamless transition, a document generation tool must be flexible enough to maintain the organization's current business processes.
Leveraging the strengths of XML technology, Project Performance Corporation (PPC) recently developed a document generation tool for the Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Management (EM) that takes into account business processes that are particular to a majority of standardized government reports. PPC's document generation tool had to (1) meet specific formatting guidelines (2) allow for an iterative process between stakeholders (3) allow users to work in their native desktop programs (4) pull data from multiple sources, and (5) allow for rapid generation and regeneration to meet last minute deadlines.
Automated Document Generation at Work for the DOE
For more than a decade, PPC has met the Department of Energy's, Office of Environmental Management's (EM's) core business processes and data collection needs through the Integrated Planning, Accountability, and Budgeting System - Information System (IPABS-IS). Building upon PPC's in depth knowledge of EM's business processes and strong subject matter expertise, PPC developed a tool to automate EM's annual budget submitted to Congress. The move from a paper-driven budget process to an automated web application was a thoughtful and deliberate decision, given the level of scrutiny paid to the EM budget. EM's environmental cleanup costs represent the third largest category of the federal government's liabilities. As a result, EM needed a tool to automate the generation of their annual budget request while maintaining consistency across the EM complex as well as minimizing the possibility of errors.
EM's budget request is a 400-page document consisting of over 100 tables incorporating data from multiple sources. Within a four-month timeframe, PPC's team of subject matter and technical experts rose to the challenge and developed the Budget Automation, Justification, and Administration Module (BAJA), which allows the Budget Office to generate the EM budget document in Microsoft Word directly from a central secure document and data repository while complying with all Chief Financial Office (CFO) formatting requirements.
The Technology Behind It All
PPC used XML (eXtensible Mark-up Language) technology to add a standardized markup to each piece of source data maintained by the Budget Office. This technical solution is readily compatible with Microsoft Office products and satisfies a primary requirement for BAJA - allowing users to edit data in their native Excel and Word documents. By transforming data from Excel spreadsheets into XML, PPC expressed the relationships between the data using a common language. Using XSLTs (eXtensible Style-sheet Language Transformations), PPC's technical experts transformed the necessary pieces of data from the XMLs to populate and format the appropriate tables in the budget document.
The flexibility that XML offers makes BAJA not only a reality for EM, but for any agency seeking to automate the generation of a large document that pulls data from multiple sources. An XML encoded file can be manipulated in any number of various tools and applications, and transformed in limitless ways.
PPC also built upon document management technologies to serve as the source document repository for maintaining key components of the budget document. Document management provided the repository, distribution control, audit tracking, and security needed when working with a major federal document.
The Future of Automated Document Generation
As a result of PPC's innovative solution, the Office of Environmental Management now has an online tool that generates their budget document in a matter of minutes. EM can maintain and generate multiple versions of the budget depending on budget cycle phase. PPC's solution allows the Budget Office more time for analysis and eliminates worrying about formatting and the ripple effect of changing a single number in the budget request.
While BAJA has proven to be a success for the Office of Environmental Management, this tool is by no means specific to EM. The technologies used by PPC to develop BAJA are easily adaptable. BAJA can be modified to generate any standardized document that pulls data from multiple data sources regardless of the business or government agency.
XML Technology with XSLT Transformations
Microsoft Office XP