12 Years and $600M for a Case Management Solution? The FBI Should Have Investigated BPM Software

The Federal Bureau of Investigation launched its new case management system, called Sentinel, last month. Sentinel moves the agency off of paper files and into the 21st Century world of electronically stored and shared case information. This should be good news – and it is, to a degree. Sentinel will make it easier for agency agents to do their jobs, track vital case information, and share that information with other law enforcement and national defense organizations.

Now here’s the bad news (and it’s really bad): The system took a total of 12 years and more than $600 million to complete. These numbers, reported in the Wall Street Journal, include the more than three years and roughly $170 million spent on an earlier digital project called Trilogy that never produced a useable case management system.

What an outrageous waste of time and taxpayer dollars! We the People deserve better, plain and simple. And the fact is, we could have better – better government agency performance supported by better government IT, delivered more quickly and at a fraction of the cost of traditional development approaches – if more agency IT teams would embrace business process management software. The most forward-thinking agencies have already paved the way and proved the value.

The story of the FBI’s Sentinel solution is a sobering reminder that former Federal CIO Vivek Kundra’s “25-Point Plan” and successor Steven VanRoekel’s various “Firsts” initiatives – all aimed at improving how government agencies develop new software solutions – remain elusive goals, not established practices, for many agencies. On the other hand, agencies that have adopted BPM software as their platform for new solution development and modernization of legacy systems are way ahead of the curve. Here are some key reasons why:

  • No-code process design: With Appian, you create enterprise-ready applications with fully executable process models, intelligent forms and reports through simple drag-and-drop, no-code composition. The benefits of this approach over traditional application coding are numerous. Business users can drive solution creation without relying on specialized development skills. Applications get created much faster. Changing applications to fit new requirements is simple.
  • Industry-leading mobile support: Federal employees and government constituents increasingly expect mobile access. Any application created in Appian can be turned into a native mobile app on all popular device platforms simply through a series of check-boxes. This means “write once, deploy anywhere.” It also means agencies don’t need specialized maintenance skills across every mobile platform just to support a single mobile app in a BYOD world.
  • Simple no-training social interface: Appian overcomes a major CIO concern in regards to new applications: user rejection. Appian applications accelerate adoption and enable agency-wide participation through a social interface that is intuitive and requires no user training.
  • Fully-portable on-premise/cloud deployment: Appian’s 100% web-based interface and scalable architecture makes it an ideal environment to deploy as a service in the cloud. Appian Cloud accelerates time-to-market and decreases am agency’s internal IT burden. Appian Cloud also reduces risk because it is code-identical to Appian on-premise. This means entire applications can be migrated from one environment to the other with ease.

So where is this in action? The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) used Appian BPM to deliver an end-to-end procurement system that integrates twelve legacy systems into one solution, greatly simplifying work for over 100 procurement officers and specialists. The U.S. Marine Corps. leveraged Appian for procurement as well, creating a solution that delivered a more than $9 million return-on-investment in the first 12 months. The Department of the Treasury/Office of the Comptroller of the Currency used Appian to deploy a new Personnel Administration and Security System (PASS), as well as its mission-critical Central Application Tracking System (CATS). And the list goes on: GSA, FDIC, Dept. of Education, FDA, FEMA, and more.

But while Appian is bringing more than 40 government agencies into a new world of modern IT application creation, there are still many more agencies out there, like the FBI, doing things the old way. And paying dearly for it. For a deeper dive into how a BPM platform changes the game for government IT development, read our white paper on “Adapting to the New Information Technology Directives:  A Guide for Federal Government CIOs.”

Ben Farrell

Director of Corporate Communications