Success Stories

Success Story: Enterprise Management & Monitoring

CITI is taking the State Department’s mission-critical enterprise management and monitoring system to new levels of sophistication and reliability. Now, from one location, DOS can view and act immediately to mitigate the risks of outages and other emergency situations in its multiple centralized data centers using real-time intelligence about the state of its various server farms, indeed about the health of its entire computing network.

The Complete Success Story...

The Department of State (DOS) had been mandated by OMB to implement a plan for a massive consolidation of their data centers and server farms to ensure that its IT services would be more efficient and still maintain high marks for quality of service (QoS). To meet these objectives, DOS designed and implemented its Enterprise Server Operations Center (ESOC) to manage the customer systems and devices located within its newly consolidated data centers. But, here was the challenge—a huge challenge: At the time these sweeping changes began…

  • DOS had hundreds of different customer groups with thousands of devices spread out in multiple locations.
  • Users had thousands of local databases, spreadsheets, and other disparate data stores used for daily operational needs.
  • Current tools installed in the data centers for maintaining configuration management data were not going to be sufficient to meet the new control and quality requirements of the OMB mandate.
  • In the midst of the massive data center consolidation…
    • software applications would need to be migrated
    • some systems would still need to be maintained or even enhanced
    • new applications and systems would need to be developed

The Department knew that its ESOC, if it was to properly manage the services afforded by the newly consolidated data centers, had to have an integrated hardware-software system that stored physical and logical configuration device information; provided device monitoring and alert notifications; and offered problem escalation capabilities. The need for this system became more and more mission-critical every month that more high priority systems were migrated into the control of the ESOC.

Out of this critical need was born the original concept for the robust enterprise systems management (ESM) solution that would support the ESOC—and the entire U.S. Department of State. In its nascent form, and before CITI was brought into the picture, the system started out as a web-based COTS product created to track data center customers and systems. Then, gradually the system was enhanced to handle all of the data center-specific services and administrative functions such as acquisition requests, service requests, and time recording.

DOS knew this highly critical enterprise tool had to be transformed for it to keep pace with the organization, as the data center consolidation project matured. In order for ESOC’s ESM solution to be extensible and scalable for years to come, it needed an automated workflow application with a web service, a new monitoring solution interfacing with server management tools, and other enhancements to support the multi-faceted mission of the ESOC (i.e., higher system availability, data center scalability, enhanced security, and improved cost containment). DOS also knew it that to make this happen, it would need a provider with the resident experience and talent equal to the customized software and infrastructure modernization tasks required. It knew it would need CITI.

CITI was already well known within DOS. In several projects which were precursors to this one, CITI had performed upgrades to the virtual machine platforms, web servers, and database software of the State Department. Additionally, CITI had a long history of producing innovative solutions for Visa and Passport Services and other global initiatives for the Department.

For this new ESM enhancement effort, CITI has focused its considerable expertise on building these major infrastructure management and system capabilities for DOS:

  • A web service that interfaces with business process management (BPM) tools to automate internal processes and enable faster data exchange and improved performance
  • An IT chargeback service that has enabled State to move forward with its IT as a service (ITaaS) strategy
  • A maintenance tracking service that proactively enables advance notifications of hardware service contract expirations and renewals
  • A virtualized and redundant enterprise environment for DOS that is monitored… all of its outages mitigated or minimized… and all of its enterprise infrastructure events managed – 7x24x365

All of CITI’s platform consolidations, successful migrations, and enhancements for the ESOC’s ESM have significantly improved the functionality and the quality of system services, and have resulted in a reduced total cost of ownership for the U.S. State Department. The solution has become the critical hub for managing the entire DOS infrastructure, and it is now the truly cost-saving system it was originally envisioned to be.

Success Story: Statistical & Congressional Reporting Tool

To enhance the usability of a key statistical and congressional reporting tool used by State for its international exchange programs, CITI chose a new platform (MS .NET combined with Silverlight), which enabled it to build more user-friendly features into the system while remaining under budget and on schedule. The resulting system delivered to DOS was so much more usable and efficient that it shaved the labor time required and is now saving the Department more than $1.5 million, annually.

The Complete Success Story...

One of the many bureaus of the U.S. Department of State (DOS) chartered with global outreach and diplomacy had a vital need to find a software solution for aggregating huge amounts of data connected with its international exchange programs as well as for processing all of the various data elements associated with the funding and the participants of those programs. The bureau must report on the data to external U.S. Agencies, U.S. Congress, and the general public. One of the chief recipients of its data is the Interagency Working Group (IAWG) established by the Office of the President to capture statistics on U.S. Government-sponsored international exchange and training. This DOS bureau had a critical need to be able to produce meaningful reports that would truly assist decision making concerning the exchange programs.

Before developing its own customized solution for this purpose, it used the IAWG’s application, but found that tool to fall short in enabling it to generate the many other reports and exports required by its other stakeholders. DOS was hunting for ideas on how to best manage and report on all of this bureau’s statistical data.

So, DOS originally built their number crunching statistical and program management tool in Delphi, an object-oriented, visual programming environment. But the system had some problems, chief of which were its lacks in the areas of usability and maintainability. The system wasn’t living up to the agency’s expectations for it. Even after several upgrades to the system, earlier versions still required several non-intuitive steps on the part of users as well as unnecessarily repetitive user actions for performing certain tasks. Users had to repeat certain actions numerous times in order get the desired results.

After this disappointing history with this system, the IT management team at this bureau came to CITI—one of its new contractors, but one that had quickly earned its trust as an innovative, results-oriented company—to overcome the many system-related difficulties that still daunted its educational and cultural exchange organization. CITI completely redesigned, indeed transformed, the solution, coding it using Microsoft’s .NET framework and leveraging Silverlight, a free web-browser plug-in that enables interactive media experiences and rich business applications.

CITI’s design enabled users to create and modify data entries without the need for excessive navigation; and it reduced the cycle times required for several business processes. The team quickly accomplished the migration of approximately 30 customized reports from Delphi Reports to Crystal Reports. The bureau, at last, had an application that was much easier to use and with which to navigate. The more user-friendly design employed by CITI in this enhanced Silverlight version has fostered easier adoption by different user groups and offices. This has directly led to better data integration and cut down on the reconciliation process resulting from a previously underutilized application. In comparing the actual time spent by users who performed tasks with the previous version with what they are doing now with the CITI-built system, DOS calculates the average user is now spending at least 50 percent less the time on data entry in order to produce high quality reporting, which it estimates saves it more than $1.5 million each year.

Success Story: Reengineered Real Estate Assessment

CITI is re-engineering a major regulatory software application for a highly visible national program at HUD, rendering it more resilient both to continual changes that regularly occur in complementary systems and to new federal regulations. Now, by using a more efficiently designed real estate assessment system, it is estimated that HUD, over time, will be able to significantly reduce its maintenance budget for this application.

The Complete Success Story...

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) had struggled for several years with doing three important things simultaneously with its complex, web-based real estate assessment and government compliance tracking system: migrating it to a new platform; developing new, automation features for the business processes it runs; and operating and maintaining it, on a day to day basis. HUD uses the system to manage its huge portfolio of affordable rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities; it needed to migrate it from its original ColdFusion/SQL database platform to a new one based on Java and Oracle. A lot was riding on all of these software upgrades being seamless to 3,000 housing authorities managing 30,000 federally-assisted properties for 1.2 million households across the country.

Obviously, there were a host of risks to this situation with a highly visible production system. One major risk was known to lie in the many touch points the system has with other HUD subsystems, and another was the continually changing set of business rules and algorithms used to score housing agencies across the nation (mostly driven by congressional legislation and regulations). Upgrading the system, in its previous state, was highly problematic, requiring time-consuming and costly recoding of software all the time. The agency was in danger of facing more and more troublesome software releases and embarrassing delays in issuing scores to HUD field offices and thousands of housing agencies. Enter CITI.

CITI, because of its great track record at other federal agencies (principally the State Department) with seamless software migrations—not to mention its ability to transform development environments and streamline processes—was brought onboard to help HUD eradicate the recurring and frustrating cycles of bug-laden releases of this system caused by excessive recoding of software. In a relatively short time (less than two years on the contract) and by pioneering the use of Agile-inspired practices, the CITI team built a service-oriented architecture (SOA)-based framework for the system, which reduced its external dependencies, improved its interoperability with other systems, and eliminated the need for constant upgrades in response to any and every change in the tightly coupled subsystems.

Other valuable innovations CITI has introduced into this system used daily by HUD’s real estate assessment organization include its re-engineered scoring module, making it more flexible and adaptable to changing regulations; it redesigned correspondence engine, which now uses a robust XML-based architecture to send and receive communications between the subsystems; and its new, table-driven software foundation that makes the system more user-configurable.

Success Story: Driving Data Consistency & Reusability

The groundbreaking work performed by CITI for State’s data management project has increased the consistency and reusability of data across DOS; facilitated the trending enterprise data global performance metrics; and saved DOS hundreds of thousands of dollars in future system integration costs. It has garnered visibility at the highest levels of State Department leadership.

The Complete Success Story...

The mission charged to the CITI team by the U.S. Department of State (DOS), simply stated, was to "establish an enterprise-wide program that institutionalizes data management best practices and provides data-related services to organizations and bureaus across the State Department." To accomplish it and to meet all of the inevitable challenges of such a mission, CITI spearheaded three major initiatives: (1) establishing data governance and actively participating in the new Application and Data Coordination Working Group (ADCWG); (2) building the Master Reference Data system (MRD); and (3) bringing to maturity the Department’s enterprise data modeling capability.

All of this groundbreaking and foundational work performed by CITI has increased the consistency and reusability of data across State Department applications; facilitated the trending and forecasting of enterprise data related to finances, personnel, and global performance metrics; and saved DOS hundreds of thousands of dollars in future system integration costs by reducing unnecessary data reconciliation, mapping, and data entry. It’s no wonder that this CITI-led data management project has garnered visibility at the highest levels of State Department leadership.

Success Story: Hugely Successful SharePoint Deployment

CITI has helped build a collaboration solution with enterprise search and Microsoft Project Server for DOS that now serves 120,000 users, connects 1,000 different SharePoint site collections spread across 5 server farms that reside on 4 unique networks (classified and public-facing). Thanks to CITI, cost of ownership is down, utilization is up, and everyone is a winner.

The Complete Success Story...

Despite the sophistication of its large organization and its IT infrastructure, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) found itself struggling with certain impediments to enterprise-wide collaboration and cross-communication among its many bureaus and offices.  CITI now maintains a solution that it has helped grow from one previously used by only one DOS division to one used by all 120,000 State employees, a global solution incorporating enterprise search and Microsoft Project Server, and connecting 1,000 different SharePoint site collections spread across 5 server farms that reside on 4 unique networks (both classified and public-facing). The verdict is in: SharePoint utilization is up, the cost of ownership is down, KPIs are looking good, and everyone involved is a winner—thanks to CITI's support.

Success Story: Global Enterprise Administration

DOS administrators at 220 overseas posts were creating standalone, duplicate solutions. CITI helped DOS consolidate 15 apps into a core software suite that provides a standardized look and shares system functionality. The web portal version enables real-time data-sharing across the global organization—to-date, more than 4 million transactions! DOS executives and overseas users have praised the application for the increased efficiency, cost savings, error reduction, and improved user experience.

The Complete Success Story...

After it determined that users based at its more than 220 overseas posts were creating home-grown, standalone applications—duplicate solutions for repetitive administration functions vital to their day-to-day operations—the State Department knew it needed a lasting, more efficient solution for its global administrative organization. CITI helped DOS consolidate and integrate 15 different apps into a core set of standard applications with the same look and feel, all under a common security and user interface framework. This web portal provides a central platform for transparent exchanges between internal customers and service providers known as eServices that, to-date, has processed more than 4 million service requests involving data sharing between applications. The increased efficiency, cost savings, error reduction, and improved user experience for its global workforce has elicited high praise from both Washington-based DOS process owners and many of the users at the Posts.

Success Story: Automated Asset Management

Department of State wanted automation to integrate processes and data to assist with enterprise IT asset management. DOS stood to save thousands of dollars a year on administrative labor and unnecessary late payment fees if it could replace its multiple spreadsheets and manual reconciling processes with automated workflows. CITI’s solution not only cut State’s asset management costs, but enabled more self-service of the database and customizable financial reporting than was thought possible.

Success Story: Barcode/RFID-Integrated BI

DOS mission: slash the time required to retrieve the “needle in a haystack”—i.e., one paper U.S. passport application among millions processed each year and stored at the National Passport Center. (In expediting or investigating passport decisions, Congressional offices request these daily.) CITI solution: integrate a barcode scanning system with ODIN Technologies’ RFID and BusinessObjects BI to produce a graphical view of the facility pinpointing the artifact’s zone. Result: kudos for a 33% gain in productivity and superior user satisfaction ratings!

The Complete Success Story...

The State Department processes millions of paper-based U.S. passport applications each year. It gets requests each day from congressional offices to either expedite an application or to investigate why a passport application was denied. A huge amount of administrative overhead, historically, was necessitated by teams of customer service specialists working to find and retrieve these documents that were stored in the National Passport Center where they were being processed. State sorely needed a labor-saving system that could effectively shorten the cycle time for search and retrieval of documents, while minimizing any impact to their current processes and systems.

CITI specialists came up with an innovative way to integrate State’s legacy barcode scanning system with the RFID technology from ODIN Technologies and tie it all together with a BusinessObjects BI application, which presents a graphical view of the storage facility detailed down to the particular zone where any given passport document is located. The CITI-developed solution—now, for the first time accessible through State’s internal network—has resulted in a 33% gain in productivity for this process. In a user satisfaction survey—conducted after the solution’s release and after users had completed an average of 500 searches a month for several months—the CITI-developed RFID/barcode system received superior ratings in both accuracy and system usability.

Success Story: Empowering Data Warehouse Technology

To execute its mission, so vitally important to the American people, the State Department must make hugely important decisions whose success hinges on the quantity and quality of the data at hand. Its data gathering efforts were often delayed by numerous institutional obstacles at State. In response to a mandate of the Secretary, CITI built a data warehouse/business intelligence solution—praised by DOS officials—that delivers enterprise data from 7 sources, stored in more than 100 tables; and it houses more than 675 million transactions, including performance data for 200+ posts.

The Complete Success Story...

To continually fulfill its mission around the globe, the U.S. State Department (DOS) has had to face one crisis situation after another over the past few decades—from the Iran hostage situation to the recent tragedy at the embassy in Benghazi, Libya. These and countless other incidents over the years point to State’s critical requirement to have decision-making data ready at a moment’s notice so it may indeed execute its mission of creating a more secure, democratic, and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community. The central management analysis organization at State is tasked with providing DOS decision makers with the robust data analytics they need to make their routine but highly important decisions as well as to implement the Secretary’s vision of management reform and transformational diplomacy.

On a regular basis, this management analysis office faced the challenge of gathering critical data from multiple stove-piped systems which many DOS bureaus and offices maintained, independently of the others. Then, using a very manually intensive, time-consuming process of comparing, integrating, and performing calculations with this data, this organization strove to arrive at the accurate answers expected of it, in response to the regular data calls it received. In addition to briefing the State Department’s executive management in an effort to prepare them for making routine decisions and reacting appropriately to present crisis situations, the management analysis office also regularly compiles data from the many disparate DOS systems for the purpose of performing predictive analyses that will support future initiatives of the State Department. The office’s efforts to deliver the accurate and timely data analyses, reports, and presentations expected of it were often frustrated by delays and other obstacles in the data gathering process. It was little wonder then, that the Secretary of State pressed the organization to develop a centralized corporate data repository (one of her eight management reform initiatives), which she firmly believed would greatly benefit the Department.

Likewise, it was little wonder that this DOS office came to CITI to develop the data warehouse. Our company was a State Department IT provider known for “getting the job done” and getting it done with the cost-saving, innovative use of emerging technologies and industry practices. As it turned out, CITI was poised to meet the challenge, although it would be no easy task because the CITI team had to overcome roadblocks to efficient data analysis such as difficulties in gaining access to data, data incompatibilities, organizational politics, and data security issues.

However, now, after overcoming these challenges over the past five years, CITI and DOS have produced an enterprise level data warehouse and business intelligence (BI) solution that is the envy of other public and private sector organizations. The solution CITI developed for State, and for which it still assumes responsibility for day-to-day operations and administration, combines information from different transactional systems into a central point from which information can be quickly extracted and analyzed to facilitate business decisions. The data warehouse is designed to fulfill the important need that exists across the State Department enterprise for quick access to historical data for all types of decision-making scenarios—crisis management, short-fuse projects, and long-term planning. However, to realize this solution’s many benefits, CITI conducts monthly training courses for users, teaching them how to harness the power of the data warehouse for performing mission-critical analyses and creating the new ad hoc reports the system is capable of producing.

The State Department’s chief information officer (CIO), in a media interview she did in 2011, voiced her appreciation of the data warehouse and BI solution. She pointed to several real world examples of the information management power the new solution gives users through the greater visibility it provides into diverse yet related data. She said the solution enables better decision making about such things as (a) the overseas transfers of people in Foreign Service, (b) their movements from one post to another, and (c) the actual cost impact of a 2-year tour of duty versus a 1-year tour in particular locations. She was proud to say that the data warehouse will enable State decision makers, for the first time, to quickly and easily know how much it really costs to do those things—decisions which necessitate having a vast amount of information at one’s fingertips.

The CITI-developed data warehouse compiles enterprise level data from 7 different data sources; there are over 700 data elements available for reporting in EDW (reports that used to take weeks can now be generated in minutes); the system contains more than 100 tables and houses more than 675 million transactions (10 years’ worth of specific subject matter data); and the BI dashboard contains performance data for more than 200 posts spread over 6 different regions. All of the hard work this team has put into this solution over the past five years continues to pay off handsomely for State.

This CITI team’s project manager was recognized in 2008 as Project Manager of the Year by the Project Management Institute (PMI) Washington DC Chapter, for his leadership of this program. The company’s project team was awarded a Department of State Certificate of Appreciation for its efforts in developing and implementing a successful pilot despite an aggressive schedule and scope.

Success Story: Amazing In-store Digital Marketing Tool

DOS mission: slash the time required to retrieve the “needle in a haystack”—i.e., one paper U.S. passport application among millions processed each year and stored at the National Passport Center. (In expediting or investigating passport decisions, Congressional offices request these daily.) CITI solution: integrate a barcode scanning system with ODIN Technologies’ RFID and BusinessObjects BI to produce a graphical view of the facility pinpointing the artifact’s zone. Result: kudos for a 33% gain in productivity and superior user satisfaction ratings!

The Complete Success Story...

The State Department processes millions of paper-based U.S. passport applications each year. It gets requests each day from congressional offices to either expedite an application or to investigate why a passport application was denied. A huge amount of administrative overhead, historically, was necessitated by teams of customer service specialists working to find and retrieve these documents that were stored in the National Passport Center where they were being processed. State sorely needed a labor-saving system that could effectively shorten the cycle time for search and retrieval of documents, while minimizing any impact to their current processes and systems.

CITI specialists came up with an innovative way to integrate State’s legacy barcode scanning system with the RFID technology from ODIN Technologies and tie it all together with a BusinessObjects BI application, which presents a graphical view of the storage facility detailed down to the particular zone where any given passport document is located. The CITI-developed solution—now, for the first time accessible through State’s internal network—has resulted in a 33% gain in productivity for this process. In a user satisfaction survey—conducted after the solution’s release and after users had completed an average of 500 searches a month for several months—the CITI-developed RFID/barcode system received superior ratings in both accuracy and system usability.